Sultan roundabout set to open

SULTAN — A $4.9 million roundabout is expected to open for traffic today along U.S. 2 at Rice Road.

The highway has been closed to a single lane since Sunday while crews built the roundabout, the first one on the highway in Snohomish County.

Originally, the Department of Transportation believed the work could cause 90-minute delays and miles of backups. Instead, it only caused 20-minute delays during rush hour at the beginning of the week.

“The drivers took our advice and found another routes,” Transportation spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.

It also helped that the Stevens Pass ski area shifted to a spring schedule, meaning it was closed Monday through Wednesday.

Many people in the southeast part of the county are skeptical about the new roundabout. Gold Bar resident Verna Barnett said she believes a traffic light would have been more effective at the intersection.

Tim Wright, also of Gold Bar, agreed.

“In my opinion, it’s the most waste of money I have ever heard of,” Wright said. “(The state) should have put another access road or added a traffic light.”

A traffic light was not installed in the intersection because it does not fit with national guidelines, said Mike Swires, a state traffic engineer for the Snohomish County area.

These guidelines include the volume of traffic, pedestrian use, numbers of collisions and if it’s used by local school buses.

“We are expecting that when drivers get adjusted, they will like the roundabout,” Swires said.

People sometimes disobey traffic lights and the most common accidents in the area are people trying to get in to the highway from Rice Road. The roundabout would fix these two things, Pembroke said.

“Everybody is moving in the same direction,” Pembroke said.

The intersection at U.S. 2 and Rice Road was the site of 20 collisions in a five-year period according to the Department of Transportation. Of those, 11 involved turning vehicles. It was also in this location where Lt. Bruce Ramsey, who worked at the Monroe Correctional Complex, died when his motorcycle collided with another vehicle in February 2010.

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com.

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