Drivers often complain that the state never seems to add roads to help ease congestion, but thousands of drivers are about to get two new lanes of traffic in Snohomish County on a major route into the Eastside.
The state is preparing to double the capacity of Highway 522 between Monroe and the Snohomish River, opening up a daily chokepoint that frustrates drivers trying to get down into Woodinville and Bellevue.
“At the US 2 interchange, all the way down to the Snohomish River Bridge, about a four mile stretch, we will have two lanes heading westbound and two lanes heading eastbound, up from just a single lane in each direction,” said Kris Olsen with the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The improvement is part of a $145 million project to improve congestion in one of Snohomish County’s fastest-growing areas. Funding for the project came from the 2003 gas tax.
“This really is good news, and it’s been a long time coming,” Olsen said. “We’ve been working on widening this road for a few years now. We’re very excited to open up additional lanes come Monday, Dec. 15.”
Why this stretch of road?
“We have about 28,000 vehicles that travel that stretch of 522 every single day, so the area has definitely grown, and it’s going to continue to grow,” Olsen said. “This was something, really an investment, we needed to make for the future for this highway and for those communities out there.”
It’s also a safety improvement. The dark two-lane stretch of road between Monroe and Maltby saw 100 crashes, including three fatal crashes, between 2006 and 2010.
“Now we have a full concrete median down the center of them with big, wide shoulders on the highway to separate that eastbound and westbound traffic to prevent those head-on collisions,” she said. “This is a huge safety benefit for the drivers out there.”
The project also includes a new two-lane bridge over the Snohomish River that will carry westbound traffic out of Monroe. The old bridge will handle the eastbound traffic.
To make final preparations to open the project in time for Monday morning’s commute, the state will be closing several roads and on-ramps this weekend around Highway 522 in Monroe.
Despite this improvement, drivers will be squeezed down to one lane in each direction between the Snohomish River and the Echo Lake interchange. The state wants to widen that section of highway, too, but the Legislature hasn’t found funding for it.