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Drivers say new Hwy 530 signal in Arlington making I-5 dangerous

A sign in Arlington drivers deem dangerous. (Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio)

A new traffic signal on Highway 530 in Arlington is backing-up traffic onto I-5, and many drivers are worried the new signal is making their route unsafe.

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KIRO Radio listener Anna Murray reached out to me, writing that there have been several near misses from people jamming on their brakes at the last second while on I-5 exiting to Highway 530 because the traffic was backed up unexpectedly.

Listener Michael Kermbach wrote, “it’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed.”

Listener Chris Farmer even sent me pictures of the backups. Listener Gary Hoffman wrote that he never remembered the traffic backing up onto the freeway before in his seven years in the area.

I checked out the signal, and the backups this week. The signal is about a third of a mile from I-5, allowing drivers on Smokey Point Boulevard a safe way to enter Highway 530. There is a new truck stop there, too, which has added traffic, and those trucks need to take a left turn across Highway 530 traffic to access I-5.

Kristin Banfield with the City of Arlington said there are now so many cars on that two lane highway, nearly 26,000 a day, that drivers entering the highway, including all those trucks, have almost no chance to do so safely. There are also businesses and gas stations there with a lot of turning traffic.

Banfield said there had been plenty of crashes and near-misses at that spot, even before the truck stop went in, and she said there was already enough traffic before the signal was put in to back up onto I-5.

“We know that the signal has exacerbated some existing condition,” she said.

But she defended the city’s decision to install it.

“We had a traffic safety issue where we had a number of collisions in that area.” she said. “Those needed to be addressed, and they needed to be addressed quickly, before we had further property damage and potential injury or loss of life.”

Since the new signal went in two months ago, Banfield said there have not been any accidents at that spot. She said the Washington Department of Transportation has been tweaking the signal timing on the 530 corridor to help with the congestion, and she said this signal is just a temporary fix.

“This signal, right now, is just a temporary solution to be able to get traffic out onto 530 and off of 530 safely,” she said.

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The permanent plan is to put a round-about at the spot where Smokey Point Boulevard meets Highway 530. Banfield said the city believes that is the best way to keep traffic flowing safely and provide room for vehicles trying to access Highway 530. It should also help with the backup onto I-5.

The project will cost between between $3 million and $4 million, and it is currently not funded. The city hopes to get funding during the next legislative session and complete the project next summer.

There is concern the passage of I-976 will keep the legislature from funding the permanent solution. Listener Hoffman is worried this permanent fix will take too long.

“Hopefully someone does not get killed in the mean time when they get rear ended trying to exit I-5,” he wrote.

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