Traffic from growth could create costly nightmare

The thought in Therese Quinn’s mind when she moved a decade ago into her home south of Lake Stevens was: Traffic? What traffic?

“I didn’t even really notice it. One of the things I was impressed with was the lack of traffic,” Quinn said.

Part 3 of 4

Stretching the Limits: A look at how the county will handle its population boom.

Today: Improving the county’s tranportation system.

Wednesday: Building new parks for new residents.

Now 10 years later, Quinn, like other motorists, doesn’t make a move without considering traffic.

Even quick trips close to home can turn out to be not so speedy.

“The traffic can be really horrible. Something that takes you five minutes can turn into a half-hour really quick,” Quinn said.

As Snohomish County officials update their growth plans – and decide where to funnel the next wave of growth that may mean a population spurt of 330,000 more people living here by 2025 – roads across the county will have to be improved to handle the crush of more cars on an already stressed system.

Look at the potential traffic troubles by the numbers and it’s staggering.

County planners have identified more than 100 areas where traffic will worsen. The number of trouble spots rises to 132 under the fastest growth scenario the county is considering.

Fixing these problems won’t be cheap.

Estimates range from $603 million to $903 million. And the county faces revenue shortfalls even if officials decide on a slow-growth scenario and fewer roads need fixing.

The budget gap could be between $202 million and $477 million. Add to that the cost of just maintaining roads over the next 20 years: $1 billion.

Deciding how to cover that cost is the tough part.

Suggested solutions include limiting the expansion of urban areas, phasing growth and charging developers more money for their projects. Those ideas, however, are sure to be opposed by the building industry.

Other ideas include raising fuel taxes to 2.8 centers per gallon, reinstating the $15 license fee on vehicles and raising property taxes. Though lately, cutting taxes has been more popular with the public than raising them.

There’s also the idea of taking tax money away from parks and spending it on roads instead. Even if that approach is approved, it won’t cover the money gap for building and maintaining roads.

Cory Ryan, a marine engineer who commutes from Everett to Seattle for work, said he’d like to see developers pay more when they build.

“I feel like developers have gotten away with a lot over the years. They should have more of an impact fee,” Ryan said.

James Monroe, who lives south of Lake Stevens, disagrees.

“Those (fees) are going to be passed onto the consumer,” he said, the people who are buying new homes.

“That really doesn’t fix anything,” he said.

Improving mass transit, and getting more cars off the road, might be a solution, Monroe said.

Quinn agrees. But for her, it’s not an option right now.

“I would have to drive halfway to where I’m going to get on a bus,” she said.

And because her neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks in many places, Quinn is worried that it wouldn’t be safe for her children to walk to a bus stop.

One thing the county can do is refuse to allow growth to continue where roads aren’t fixed, Quinn said. Instead of allowing road improvements to lag up to six years behind development, improvements should be finished by the time people move in. Or sooner.

“We’re sort of becoming really urbanized in a lot of ways, but we don’t have that urban infrastructure,” Quinn said.

“I’d like to see the county making sure that when they do allow more houses to be built, that the infrastructure is there, before the people get there.”

Reporter Brian Kelly: 425-339-3422 or

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
‘I’m stuck in the trees’: 911 call recounts plane crash near Paine Field

Asad Ali was coming in for a landing in a Cessna 150 when he crashed into woods south of Mukilteo. Then he called 911 — for 48 minutes.

Snohomish County likely to feel more like winter, beginning Monday

Get ready for a mix of rain and snow this week, along with cooler temperatures.

Anthony Boggess
Arlington man sentenced for killing roommate who offered shelter

Anthony Boggess, 33, reported hearing the voices of “demons” the night he strangled James Thrower, 65.

Mt. Pilchuck covered in snow is barely visible through the clouds as the sun breaks through illuminating raindrops as they fall off of the Mountain Loop Highway on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Active’ weather brings rain, snow, hail, fresh powder to Snohomish County

Up to an inch of snow could accumulate in the lowlands. Three inches of rain could fall in Darrington. And Stevens Pass is “doing quite well.”

Joanne Fisher, right, a meat wrapper with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on  Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Fisher was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
US sues to block merger of grocery giants Kroger, Albertsons

Grocery workers in Snohomish County and elsewhere have argued the merger would stymie competition and hurt workers.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee during its meeting on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, where the panel indicated it would not move ahead with legislation to cap residential rent increases at 7%. The move effectively killed the bill for the 2024 legislative session. (Bill Lucia/Washington State Standard)
Plan for 7% statewide cap on rent increases fails in Olympia

State Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, told reporters the bill did not have enough support to move it forward.

People look out onto Mountain Loop Mine from the second floor hallway of Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mining company ordered to stop work next to school south of Everett

After operating months without the right paperwork, OMA Construction applied for permits last week. The county found it still violates code.

Shoppers cross Alderwood Mall Parkway after leaving the mall and walking through its parking lot on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lynnwood police seek 3 suspects after pursuit, brief shootout

The driver of a stolen car intentionally hit a teen boy Sunday, officers said. Police pursued the suspects near I-5.

Starbucks employee Zach Gabelein outside of the Mill Creek location where he works on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘We cannot keep up’: Mill Creek Starbucks workers file for unionization

The cafe’s crew joins the ranks of the 624 stores nationwide, including two other locations in Snohomish County.

The Nimbus Apartments are pictured on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County has the highest rent in the state. Could this bill help?

In one year, rent for the average two-bedroom apartment in Snohomish County went up 20%. A bill seeks to cap any increases at 7%.

The Westwood Rainier is one of the seven ships in the Westwood line. The ships serve ports in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast Asia. (Photo provided by Swire Shipping)
Westwood Shipping Lines, an Everett mainstay, has new name

The four green-hulled Westwood vessels will keep their names, but the ships will display the Swire Shipping flag.

A Snohomish County no trespassing sign hangs on a fence surrounding the Days Inn on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Meth cleanup at Edmonds motel-shelter made matters worse, report says

Contamination has persisted at two motels Snohomish County bought to turn into shelters in 2022. In January, the county cut ties with two cleanup agencies.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.