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Traffic, development big issues for city in 2008

MARYSVILLE Well, there is always the issue of traffic, City Council member Jon Nehring responded when asked what sort of priorities the citys legislative body might have for the coming year.
I think we need to continue to address transportation, added Council member Carmen Rasmussen.
Traffic is at the top of my list as well, said Councilman Jeffrey Vaughan.
If you think you are starting to sense a pattern here, you are probably right. Traffic congestion was cited as a key problem for Marysville by every City Council member spoken with.
But those same Council members believe some relief is on its way in the case of at least a few of the citys bottlenecks.
People are going to see a lot of big improvements in the coming year, Vaughan said.
Widening SR 528 to five lanes is probably the biggest aspect of the biggest project now underway. The work will see the state roadway grow almost its entire length between I-5 and SR 9. The work is slated to be finished by April at a cost of about $2 million. In addition to the widening, Vaughan and others noted the project includes synchronization of traffic signals and others steps intended to improve traffic flow.
Mayor Dennis Kendall declined direct comment for this story. Kendall will give the mayors traditional State of the City Speech later this month. In a rough draft of the speech provided by his office, Kendall touches on the improvements to SR 528 as key for the city, but also talks about the widening of 116th Street NE to five lanes between I-5 and State Avenue.
As he has in the past, Kendall also brags about what he obviously sees as the citys successful efforts to attract new retail to Marysville. In his speech, Kendall talks about nearly full tenancy at the Lakewood Crossing shopping plaza at 172nd Street NE and I-5 along with the Gateway Shopping Center at 116th Street NE and I-5.
Council members also mentioned new retail as a big plus for Marysville, but were quick to note the Lakewood Crossing project has led to a big new traffic bottleneck as well. Still, for his part, Vaughan argued traffic flowed better than expected around the shopping area during the recent holidays. In anticipation of those holidays, the city took a couple of steps aimed at reducing traffic problems around the still new shopping strip.
In October, the city and the Washington Department of Transportation restriped and widened 172nd at I-5 to create a right-turn only lane leading to the I-5 southbound ramp. In November, the city reconfigured the middle lane of 27th Avenue behind Lakewood Crossing. Since the change, from that middle lane, drivers have been able to turn right or left, as well as go straight ahead. Still, Vaughan, Rasmussen and others said the biggest problem around Lakewood Crossing is the extremely limited access to I-5.
Thats not acceptable, added Vaughan, who feels the city needs to lobby the federal government for help with funding some solutions to the traffic problems around the citys shopping areas and elsewhere.
After traffic, Council members touched on a couple of different issues they believe are facing the city. Nehring said officials need to finish studying a consolidated civic complex, one that will bring together all of the citys various departments into one space. Kendall plans to hit on that topic is his State of the City speech, naming two sites as being under consideration: the Comeford Park area and the downtown property owned by the city along Ebey Slough, just east of State Avenue.
With retail growth seemingly well underway, Rasmussen talked about developing the so-called Smokey Point gap area annexed by the city in 2006. The city zoned the area for light industry, though, as has been well publicized, officials are promoting some of that space as home to a potential branch campus of the University of Washington. Rasmussen said Kendall has been highly aggressive in touting the area at various business conferences and trade shows.
In his speech, Kendall is expected to hit on a couple of other topics, including the administrations plan to annex more property to Marysville, adding as many as 20,000 people to the current population of about 36,000. According to Kendall, the move makes financial sense as it will allow the city to keep a higher percentage of collected sales taxes.

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