First-rate road project shines along Silver Lake

With little fanfare but much relief for motorists, the state Department of Transportation has completed the final widening of Highway 527. The nearly 12-mile route from I-405 at Canyon Park to I-5 at Eastmont now has two lanes going in each direction, making one of the county’s major north-south arteries safer and less like a parking lot during rush hour.

The final section, funded by the 2003 nickel gas tax increase, runs from Mill Creek north to 112th Street SE. The last stretch along Silver Lake opened to traffic last month – on time and on budget – and if you’ve driven it, you’ve no doubt noticed improved traffic flow.

What you need to do to really appreciate it, though, is walk it.

As part of the project, the DOT and City of Everett combined to create a spectacular, paved pedestrian path that connects all three of the lake’s city parks, from Hauge Homestead Park at the southeast corner to Thornton Sullivan park on the west side. Public access to the shoreline has been enhanced, and you can now enjoy a leisurely walk without having to dodge shoulder-hugging trucks.

It’s OK, bring the baby stroller – there’s plenty of room. There are also benches, picnic tables, beautiful landscaping and fishing piers along the way. Soon, interpretive signs will be installed, detailing the lake’s history and natural habitat. Bicycle lanes have also been added to the roadway.

Some folks have complained that the safety wall installed between the highway and shoreline at the lake’s north end impedes the view of the lake. It does (from the road), but with the payoff of keeping errant cars from going for an unexpected swim. The roadway has also been elevated – up to 5 feet at the highest point – which will help direct polluted runoff out of the lake.

Pollution was a growing problem in this urban lake, where the nearby population has roughly doubled since 1990, with more dense development on the way. The new road’s design, with catch basins, stormwater retention facilities and filtration systems, allows for double the traffic capacity and a healthier lake at the same time.

Some longtime residents were disappointed by the loss of an unofficial boat launch next to the highway that was a remnant of the lake’s early resort days. There was no way to incorporate it safely. The city is exploring options for replacing it, perhaps at Thornton Sullivan Park. And as before, inflatable and car-top boats can be dropped in off a dock at Hauge Homestead Park, just south of Emory’s Restaurant.

Overall, the improvements to traffic capacity, safety, shoreline access and environmental protection far outweigh the few compromises that had to be made. Get out and enjoy it for yourself.

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