Upon further review, state puts I-5 on-ramp back on schedule

WSDOT says it crunched the numbers again: An interchange at Highway 529 and I-5 will be built as planned.

The Highway 529/I-5 interchange project includes a northbound ramp from the freeway onto the highway into Marysville, and a southbound ramp from the highway to the interstate. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

The Highway 529/I-5 interchange project includes a northbound ramp from the freeway onto the highway into Marysville, and a southbound ramp from the highway to the interstate. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

MARYSVILLE — State transportation officials have found a way to construct a major I-5 interchange as planned, days after saying it wasn’t possible due to rising costs.

The Highway 529 and I-5 interchange had been drawn with three major components — one northbound and one southbound ramp linking the freeway and highway on Ebey Island, and a northbound high occupancy vehicle lane between Everett and Marysville.

But last month the Washington State Department of Transportation told the city of Marysville and Snohomish County that work on the on-ramp to southbound I-5 could be delayed because the project’s estimated price tag was $7.2 million beyond its $89.4 million budget. Work is to begin next year and wrap in 2023.

On Wednesday, WSDOT Regional Administrator Mike Cotten informed Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring that they had crunched the numbers and found a way to keep the project intact when it is put out to bid. Cotten followed up with a letter which also went to a slew of civic leaders who had publicly opposed delaying the on-ramp.

“We are very pleased. This is a critical project for Marysville and Snohomish County and having the full interchange back on track for on-time completion is very important,” Nehring said in an email.

“I wouldn’t say I am surprised as it never really made sense to me to cut $7.2 million now and then pay more (probably significantly more) than that in demobilization and remobilization of contractors and equipment along with inflation to complete later,” he said. “I am really appreciative that WSDOT worked hard to find savings elsewhere, without affecting the integrity of the overall project essentials and timeline.”

Cotten, in his letter, said that when it was “made clear” a potential delay of the on-ramp was not desirable, they had independent engineers within the agency and construction professionals take another look.

“We adjusted some of our assumptions and estimates regarding various components related to items of work for the design-builder as well as material costs that need to be considered,” he wrote.

The trade-off, he wrote, is other items in the original project could get delayed such as replacement of “aging Intelligent Transportation Systems equipment that is essential to traffic monitoring and detection,” he wrote. These systems include such items as traffic cameras, message boards, and ramp meters.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers had said delaying the on-ramp would be “penny-wise and pound foolish.”

“We are grateful for the state’s effort and diligence in getting this project back on track,” he said Wednesday. “We remain committed to seeing this project completed as planned and on time.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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