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Snohomish County roads can’t handle the growth

The growth in south Snohomish County have planners scrambling to find a solution to the increasing congestion on the roads.

To say growth in the North Creek area of Snohomish County has exploded would be an understatement. It is one of the fastest growing and developing areas in the state. It runs north of Maltby, up through south Everett, and east of the Mill Creek area.

I have lived in that corridor for 12 years, and they are building houses faster than you can imagine. More than 2,400 new housing units in that small section of the county have gone up since 2011. And what used to be quiet neighborhood streets have been replaced by bumper-to-bumper arterials during rush hour.

“We’ve come to the point where we need to make sure the infrastructure is available to handle the growth,” Snohomish County Traffic Engineer Jim Bloodgood said.

The main north-south arterial, 35th Avenue, has become so clogged that the county has actually denied some new development in the area, knowing that the infrastructure couldn’t take it.

“That’s where we got last year,” he said. “We said, ‘you know what, we either have to stop development or we have to plan these improvements.'”

The county is preparing for five years of construction projects to try and ease the pain, but those projects won’t start until a new high school opens in September, adding even more traffic to the corridor.

“To complicate things, we have a new high school opening in the fall, and every time we’ve had a new high school open up there has been a period of time where there has been a lot of traffic and a lot of chaos and a lot of congestion,” Bloodgood said.

North Creek High School is in the middle of the new development, right along 35th. It will have about 1,300 new students.

What’s the five-year plan? The county will widen 35th between Seattle Hill Road and Maltby Road, adding a center turn lane on that entire 3.5-mile stretch. The county will be extending a parallel road, 43rd Avenue, punching it out to 180th on the north and Maltby Road on the south. That will provide another option for north-south drivers.

Bloodgood said there are times he looks back and wishes the county had made better decisions, but I’m not sure anyone expected 16,000 people a year to be moving into Snohomish County like they are today.

“In retrospect … we probably wouldn’t have made those decisions back then,” he said. “We thought we needed more lanes on 35th. The decision wasn’t made, but that’s why we have a parallel 43rd Avenue now to help relieve that.”

Bloodgood said the original plan was to make 35th Avenue a five-lane road, essentially a parallel Highway 527, running east of Mill Creek. That didn’t happen, and now the county is playing catch-up.

Construction on these new projects is set to begin next year and run through 2022. Even more projects are planned, but not funded.

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