WSDOT wants public input on options to break up gridlock on Highway 9 in Snohomish County

by: Joanna Small Updated:

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After spending $300 million to fix congestion on Highway 9 in Snohomish County the Washington State Department of Transportation says it’s still a massive problem. 

Officials say they have one more project that will help, at least in the short term. The transportation department has developed three proposals, and officials want public input before making a decision.

When a call comes into Snohomish County Fire District 7, firefighters have 90 seconds to get out, and they almost always do. 

But once they’re en route, time is no longer something they can control. 

“Minutes matter. Absolutely,” Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Lundquist said.

Lundquist says gridlock on Highway 9, which has 3 miles of one-lane road, takes minutes off their response time.

“Right here, we’re at 180th and SR 9,” he explained of Station 71’s location. “The traffic will be backed up for hundreds and hundreds of feet behind that and for miles going north just because it converges into one lane, and cars have nowhere to go except wait to get into that one lane.”

And there’s no lane for emergency vehicles. 

WSDOT wants to fix that, so the department has proposed three projects: the first is to add a second northbound lane between 176th and 164th; the second is to add turn lanes on 164th and re-time the lights to give traffic on Highway 9 a longer green; the third is to add the second northbound lane only from 168th to 156th.

Each of the options costs $3 million or less, which is substantially less than the tens of millions it will eventually cost to widen the highway. 

“I think it’s important to stress there’s not a silver bullet at this point. We’re not going to solve the problem but we might be able to make some of this a little more bearable,” Kris Olsen, with WSDOT told us.

Lundquist says that's great; just as every minute matters, so does every improvement.

On Wednesday, the public will have a chance to weigh in on these options at an open house starting at 5:30 p.m. 

People can take a look at the renderings up close at Glacier Peak High School in Snohomish.

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