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Not your tax dollars at work | OPINION

My drive home takes me up Highway 528 to where I opt for turning south on 83rd or easing through the construction zone to Highway 9. Curiosity always wins and I endure flaggers’ hold-ups to see what’s going on.

It’s the same route I used to take on my bicycle when a need for exercise took me to Frontier Village for coffee. Highway 528 was Hickock Road in those days, a two-lane strip of weathered asphalt bordered by narrow gravel shoulders. It was enough because traffic was light. It was enough to allow me and my bicycle share with motor vehicles without seriously fearing for my life.

Some months ago it looked like they were widening Hwy. 528 for a turn lane into the Walmart site where construction vehicles now enter. The city tells me that opening will still serve, but only for right-turning shoppers. The question on everyone’s mind was, how will they get a gazillion shoppers onto and off the site without creating colossal traffic jams?

Weeks passed. Oversized equipment kept arriving on lowboy trailers. Hillsides were carved away. Part of a gully was brought up to grade. Fake natural stone retaining walls were formed up and poured. Aside from a whole lot of money being spent, there was no clue as to how the work might solve up-coming traffic challenges.

It continued month after month. Digging, boring, pile-driving and hauling machines entertained passers-by patient enough not to be annoyed by delays. Hillsides were subtracted so that lanes could be added, multiplying the cost. A brand-new street, 87th Avenue, is just now being developed to skirt Walmart’s west boundary.

It was on August 23rd of 2005 that the city of Marysville signed the document that would guide all this road work. That’s nearly eight years ago. When you figure that the new Walmart project would have to square with Marysville’s Municipal Code, state RCWs, county development plans and Department of Transportation standards, it was bound to take a long time, but eight years?

Even with the magnitude of the roadwork, citizens need not be concerned about the cost. Every dime is coming out of Walmart coffers. It’s Walmart that will be impacting traffic so Walmart is bearing the total cost for traffic mitigation. I can’t even guess what that will total.

Walmart has the resources to weather a hundred setbacks of this order before seeing a dip in profits. I do suspect though, that the company’s top brass had a nose-to-nose conversation with its site acquisition people about the bill for this work, and how it might take a month or two for profits from the new Marysville store to cover it.

KLB Construction of Mukilteo is doing the highway and street work, which keeps profits from that part of Walmart’s construction near home. After opening, profits from store operation will wing away to company headquarters in Arkansas. That leaves Walmart’s host communities to weigh the advantages of cheap goods and low-paying jobs with the economic serfdom of serving as cash-cows for distant owners.

The project is huge. The store, itself, covers almost 150,000 square feet, roughly the equivalent of a hundred Marysville homes. The entire development covers 20 acres with over 1,250 feet fronting on Highway 9 and more than 600 feet along 528. There will be 718 parking slots to accommodate 7,500 visitors per weekday. An amount of $130,000 will be paid to Snohomish County to cover costs of added traffic, about the cost Walmart is paying for a few days of road construction.

The new 87th Avenue will open on the two main entrances to Walmart’s parking, the third will open directly onto Hwy. 528 where only right-turners will enter or exit. A third entrance off 87th provides access for delivery and service vehicles at the far north end of the property. A light will be installed at the intersection of Hwy. 528 and the new street, 87th, to help duct traffic onto 87th where access to parking will be least challenging.

Is the Marysville area becoming over-Walmarted? Area shoppers will soon be able to pick off Blue-light Specials from any of three area stores; Smokey Point, the Reservation, or east Marysville. That outnumbers arch-rivals Target and Fred Meyer by one store each. Together, they’ll siphon up much of the area’s disposable income and send it off to corporate headquarters.

It might take a while for the new store to show a profit but that’s not because Walmart is run by dopes. They anticipate a time when sewer extensions will open vast acreages between Marysville and Granite Falls to development. It’s a business that has successfully stuck with the Field of Dreams mentality. If we build it, they will come.

Comments may be addressed to robertgraef@comcast.net.

 

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