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WSDOT removing trees to restore marshland in Marysville

WSDOT moving dirt long I-5 at Hwy 525 in Marysville. (KIRO Radio, Chris Sullivan)

Peter the truck driver, who listens to 97.3 KIRO FM every morning, hit me up on the station’s text line recently asking about some activity in Marysville.

Sully, any idea what the construction/tree removal going on where 529 meets I-5 in south Marysville is all about? They’ve cut down almost all the trees on both sides of 529, and there have been construction vehicles there for a couple of months.

Tom Pearce with the Washington State Department of Transportation has the answer.

“We are reclaiming an estuary that was buried with fill 60 or 70 years ago,” Pearce said.

WSDOT workers had to fill in areas around Union and Steamboat Sloughs to build Highway 529 and eventually I-5.

Landscape changed by Sound Transit tree cutting project

“We dug material out of the slough and we piled it up,” he said. “When we did that, we buried marshland that had been there for hundreds and hundreds of years.”

If you look to the west of 529, you will see what should be there naturally, a salt and fresh water marsh full of tall reeds and wildlife.

The project will reclaim about 12.5 acres, rebuilding that natural marsh.

“We’re going to remove the trees,” Pearce said. “We’re going to dig out the fill that was placed there. We’re going to cut channels in there for the water to flow in. We will breach the dike.”

Water from Puget Sound will eventually flood the area.

The project is the precursor to the addition of new on and off ramps from I-5 to 529 in Marysville. As we have discussed before, I-5 can back up any time, day or night, weekday or weekend, because of all the growth in the Marysville and Arlington area. There is only one off-ramp to Marysville, Fourth Avenue, which also happens to cross the railroad tracks just over a block from the freeway.

“The idea is to avoid the railroad tracks, where right now, you get off at Fourth Avenue, a train comes through, and now everybody’s backed-up,” Pearce said.

The northbound I-5 off-ramp to 529 will put drivers on State Avenue, which is to the east of the tracks. The southbound on-ramp to I-5 will be just after the slough bridge, also avoiding the tracks.

The state is also working on a high-capacity shoulder lane in the northbound direction of I-5 between Everett and Marysville to help the horrible afternoon commute. These projects are still in design, with construction set for next year.

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