Local traffic breakdown redux: No real surprise


Given the early and repeated warnings, the enormous traffic snarl created by the northbound closure of Highway 529 is utterly inexcusable. Doesn’t anyone remember what happened last time the road was closed for repair? We’ll give you a clue — it’s the very same thing that happened this time. Too many cars, too few options and no traffic assistance in sight.

Headlines from three years ago — one read: "Grrrrrr … Gridlock" — could have been recycled in Tuesday’s paper. What happened to the state’s planning? Undoubtedly, that will be sorted out in coming days.

For now, the public can hope that quick re-thinking by the Department of Transportation will produce some relief, as occurred in 1998 when the state also neglected to take the situation seriously enough at first. And the public should also expect the state to keep a careful eye on the situation for the remaining months of work on Highway 529, first during the northbound shutdown and then during similar southbound work.

We don’t for a minute think that there are easy options. Alternatives are few and quickly become clogged as angry, frustrated commuters fight a losing battle against gridlock.

But pity the poor folks who actually thought the "detour provided" signs on Highway 529 meant that a reasonable detour would be provided. Guess what? The detour was actually a hot and sweaty one-way trip back into the heart of the problem.

Incredibly, people venturing onto Everett’s streets could have assumed that they had been lifted into downtown Manhattan. Getting from west to east was as bad as cross-town traffic ever gets in New York City.

Somehow, enough people coped well enough to avoid any reports of serious road rage incidents. Not that there wasn’t abundant rage.

While the experts revise their plans, the public can take a few of the usual steps to reduce the problem. For some people, car-pooling and transit could be options, or maybe a shift in work times. Or just staying home.

Still, the thought of staying home from work points to the size of the problem, which shouldn’t have surprised the DOT, especially with work on U.S. 2 occurring at the same time. It’s one thing for traffic to halt during an emergency — remember the Shoreline shootings and standoff in 1999? Under any other circumstances, though, total paralysis of a major city shouldn’t happen. But it did, during long-planned repairs. Would so little effective preparation have ever been allowed for a project in Seattle?

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