The northbound drive between Everett and Marysville remains one of the worst drives in our region. It backs up for miles seven days a week, at all hours.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to sit and watch paint dry, you should try this drive. It’s usually bumper to bumper from just after the Everett Mall to north of Marysville in the afternoon. That’s more than eight miles of sucking fumes.
The biggest contributor to this horrendous traffic is the explosive growth in Snohomish and south Skagit counties. Compounding that growth is all the weaving in Everett, where you have the downtown exits, the Highway 2 on- and off- ramps, the Marine View Drive exit, and the loss of two lanes.
But even when you get to the flatlands, north of the Snohomish River, you are barely moving. There is only one exit into downtown Marysville and that exit routinely backs up onto I-5, especially when a train crosses Fourth Avenue.
What is the state going to do about it?
“We know this is an area that we need to deal with,” said Kris Olsen, spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Transportation. “We also know that this is a very challenging area geographically because of you have a lot of rivers and sloughs going through there.”
The state doesn’t have the money to do a major I-5 rebuild to add capacity, but some fixes are in the works. WSDOT plans to add hard shoulder driving in the northbound direction. An advisory panel is currently working to define just how far it would go and who can use it.
“Should the peak use lane be on the right-hand [or] left-hand side?” Olsen asked. “Should it be HOV-only? Should it be for general purpose only? What kind of hours should we be looking at for this?”
The current plan would have the lane starting near Marine View Drive, where the freeway loses two lanes. It could stop at Marysville or just beyond.
The other pieces of this puzzle, that should really help ease the daily congestion, are the new ramps to and from Highway 529. The state will be building a new interchange there, just south of the current one at Fourth Avenue. This will put northbound drivers off I-5, east of the railroad tracks, providing another option into the city.
For southbound drivers coming from 529 or down the hill from Lake Stevens, they won’t have to drive through Fourth Avenue to get to the freeway.
Construction isn’t set to begin until 2020 and it won’t be finished until 2023.