There is no doubt that Snohomish County needs to add capacity to Highway 2 to handle the explosive growth east of I-5. A new trestle will be built, but the state hasn’t figured out how to pay for it.
Tolling could play a role, but is that fair to Lake Stevens residents who live on the other side of the trestle?
Lake Stevens had 8,000 residents in 1992. It has more than 32,000 today. It will likely reach 50,000 people by 2040.
Mayor John Spencer has watched the region grow up around him.
“We’re having to live with a very difficult rural, semi-rural, suburban kind of situation these days that was not built for the kind of growth we’re experiencing,” Mayor Spencer said.
Highway 2, including the trestle, and Highway 9 are the only real ways out of Lake Stevens. The two roadways are grid-locked every day.
“We have got communities here where people pull out of their driveway and they go a block, and they’re stuck,” he said. “They have to queue-up to get out of their subdivision to get on the main road.”
There is no doubt Spencer’s city needs a new trestle. Forcing his residents to pay a toll to access the rest of the region doesn’t sit well.
“Sometimes people make two, three, four, five trips a day across that trestle, and a toll, if we have one, it’s going to have to be something that works for people out here and doesn’t hold them hostage,” the mayor said.
Spencer is willing to listen to a tolling pitch, but he says tolls need to be tiny and only active during peak commute hours.
Mayor Spencer and members of the Lake Stevens city council are going to Washington DC this weekend to push for federal funding for the new trestle, which is estimated to cost about $1 billion.
“Let’s say we have to put some skin in the game in order to get federal infrastructure money in here under the Trump proposal then I think people would be willing to do it (accept a toll), but it better be damn small,” he said. “Otherwise, you’re just forcing people further out and making their lives more miserable, and you’ve basically held them hostage and that’s not fair.”
And Mayor Spencer has this message for his residents and those who live in Snohomish and Granite Falls and other small Snohomish County cities, “We’re not just going to parachute a toll into here and tell the people ‘hey tough you have to pay it,’ we have to work this out with people who live here.”
The state will be meeting with those cities and residents over the next few years to discuss how to fund the trestle and how it should be configured. Initial tolling figures sent shockwaves through Snohomish County when they were released late last year. They were estimated to run between a $1.25 and $5.25 each way in that funding report.
A decision to toll the trestle and how much it would be is still years from being decided, but the state believes if tolling is used it will start when construction does in 2023.