Drivers exiting southbound I-5 begin to turn left into the eastbound lanes of 164th Street SW on Aug. 17 near Lynnwood. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Drivers exiting southbound I-5 begin to turn left into the eastbound lanes of 164th Street SW on Aug. 17 near Lynnwood. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Traffic backups on 164th Street near I-5 could see relief soon

The county and state are implementing a new traffic signal system that synchronizes the corridor and adjusts to demand.

Tezra Damaso’s daily commute from work at a physical therapy office has been a slog lately.

Damaso’s office is near Silver Lake in southeast Everett. Typically she uses 164th Street SW to get home, turning east from southbound I-5.

But that can double her travel time because of backups at the ramp for other drivers turning left at the intersection. Traffic can stack far enough away from the signal that it extends into the travel lane of I-5, Damaso wrote to The Daily Herald.

“A 15-(minute) commute can become a 30-(minute) commute, which isn’t as bad as traveling to Seattle but it still shouldn’t be the case,” Damaso wrote. “Sometimes I go through Mill Creek just to avoid potentially sitting on the freeway while cars to my left are going 65 to 70 mph while I’m at a dead stop.”

She said she’s seen only two vehicles turn left or right through a green light because the eastbound traffic is stuck at a nearby red light ahead. Damaso asked for the signals along the corridor to have better synchronization and to add another lane to the ramp’s current three.

The county and state know the area sees traffic backups.

“Yes, we do experience severe congestion in that area during peak hours,” Snohomish County traffic engineer Mohammad Uddin wrote in an email.

But there’s good news for Damaso’s first request.

Snohomish County and the Washington State Department of Transportation manage the traffic lights, with the state handling the ones in the I-5 interchange and the county in charge of ones that aren’t on state highways. They are working to implement a new signal system along the 164th Street corridor, state DOT spokesperson James Poling wrote in an email.

The new setup will have signals between Highway 99 to the west and Highway 527 to the east, synchronized on the same cycle length. They also can adjust to traffic demand.

Implementation started about one month ago and could be finished by the end of the year, but could need more time for “fine tuning,” Uddin wrote.

The new system is estimated to improve traffic efficiency up to 15%, Poling wrote.

“Given these improvements, this remains a challenging corridor with high-traffic volumes,” Poling wrote. “The Ash Way and 14th Place W adjacent intersections to the I-5 junction have additional traffic and pedestrian movements that must be served, which reduces the amount of the green time for the 164th corridor. ”

A fourth lane from the southbound I-5 ramp to 164th Street isn’t planned at this time.

The county and state, however, are pursuing other changes that could help move people through the corridor.

Snohomish County is studying access and connections to the planned light rail station in that area. The county’s preferred option is east of I-5, while the representative alignment is west and near the Ash Way Park and Ride.

But whether the station is east or west of I-5, a study for the county in 2017 recommended improvements to 164th Street. The study also looked at another freeway crossing nearby, possibly at 146th Street and 148th Street, but that hasn’t been determined yet.

Some of the study’s recommendations include improvements to the road that support Community Transit’s Swift Orange bus rapid transit line that runs between Lynnwood and Mill Creek.

Another project would build the carpool and transit connection from the Ash Way Park and Ride east across I-5 to the intersection of 164th Street SW and 13th Avenue W, which also is called Meadow Road.

There already is a direct access ramp for northbound I-5 transit to the Ash Way Park and Ride. But it doesn’t return to northbound I-5, putting buses and other multi-passenger vehicles back onto 164th to reach the freeway. The county study recommended completing the northern leg of that direct access ramp.

Putting carpool and bus and turn lanes on 164th Street could help as well, according to the study.

The legislature’s Move Ahead Washington transportation package included $20 million for 164th Street SW and I-5 improvements for the Lynnwood Link light rail. More non-motorized connection to the station is a main goal for it.

In the more near-term, the county has a paving and overlay project on 164th Street SW scheduled next year. It includes upgrading sidewalks and curb ramps as well as installing conduits for future accessible pedestrian signals.

Other county projects on the horizon in that area include 36th and 35th Avenue W improvements next year, and Alderwood Mall Parkway and Ash Way corridor as well as Interurban Trail improvements in 2025.

The county is hosting an open house about projects in the area from 5 to 7 p.m., Oct. 12, at the Alderwood Water and Wastewater District, 3626 156th St. SW, Lynnwood.

Have a question? Call 425-339-3037 or email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

An earlier version incorrectly stated which vehicles are allowed to use the direct access ramps to the Ash Way Park and Ride. Only transit can use them.

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