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Lakewood residents jeer Mvilles proposed traffic fixes
MARYSVILLE Marysville City officials spoke to an angry group of Lakewood residents last week about efforts to ease traffic concerns around the newly opened Lakewood Crossing shopping center but they got an earful in return.
Some immediate help is on the way for streets clogged with traffic bound for the new Costco and Target stores west of the freeway, but about 60 neighbors wanted to know what Marysville has done with millions of dollars in mitigation fees paid to the city by the mall developers. Traffic engineers explained that the road grid is a mix of federal, state, county and city responsibility, but angry residents werent having any of it.
This is a Marysville problem, not a state problem, shouted Larry Tribbey. He lives two blocks west of the new shopping center and wants to see some improvements.
Others said the city has been too aggressive in pursuing annexation to get new retail tax revenue, but public works representatives said that growth was going to come to the Lakewood area in any event and city jurisdiction will help control it better. City engineer Kevin Nielsen cited developments such as Frontier Village south of Lake Stevens built under Snohomish County rules.
We at least wanted to have the control, Nielsen said, noting that many developments in the county feature sub-standard roads that Marysville wont allow. Thats why we did it.
By taking them now we cut down on the costs, said public works director Paul Roberts. Its a pay me now or pay me later situation.
The Jan. 18 meeting was a follow-up to address the concerns of many senior citizens living at Crystal Tree Village, a retirement community next to the 52-acre shopping center, which will attract an estimated 28,000 new car trips each weekday. The first tenant opened for business in September and currently there are about half that number of trips, and Crystal Trees manager has been working with the city to improve the streets around Lakewood before more tenants come online. The only solution so far was a new four-way stop at the intersection of 27th Avenue NE and 169th Street NE. Folks in the audience asked for stop bars to be applied to the intersection, something that would have to wait for better weather so crews could melt the markers into the asphalt. Members of the audience shouted that drivers run the new stop signs.
It seemed like it was helping residents get out on to 27th, Nielsen said of the new four-way stop.
He said the Washington State Department of Transportation will re-install the free right turn lane from eastbound 172nd Street NE to the southbound interstate on-ramp. That news drew a round of applause from the crowd. Marysville owns the right of way for the new on-ramp lane and this could be done in as little as a couple months, according to Nielsen. That should help tremendously, he said.
Another option is doubling the lone right turn lane from northbound 27th to eastbound 172nd, but this is complicated by the U-turns allowed at the intersection for westbound drivers on 172nd, according to Nielsen.
There are plans in the works, he said.
Do you think Marysville got too aggressive on annexations? asked resident Lorren Olsen. You dont particularly care about these people out here. Youll say you do. I think youve over extended.
Others asked about a moratorium on development in the area until the roads caught up to the cars, but public works director Paul Roberts said that would be putting out the welcome mat for lawsuits, and any moratorium would have to be countywide.
The M word is used a lot, and would be essentially an invitation to lawsuits, Roberts said, adding that the roads werent working before the development occurred. A moratorium will not stop development; it will bring lawsuits.
The city is working on more funding resources and the take from the new 9.5 cents per gallon gas tax should help, Roberts said. Chief administrative officer Mary Swenson said the city has lobbyists down in Olympia working on legislators to turn over new sources of road funds.
The more legislators hear from constituents, the more response youre going to get, she said.
The Lakewood folks spent almost two hours teeing up questions for the administrators. They included:
The railroad crossing at 156th Street NE. This was closed unilaterally by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad several years ago without any input or approval from the city. Laws governing rails were formulated starting in the 1800s and there is nothing the city can do about that. A new city-funded bridge will be built over the tracks sometime in the future and it might be possible to reopen the at-grade railroad crossing but many different jurisdictions are involved in that process.
The laws were written a long time ago about the railroads, he said. They have the law on their side.
Concrete curbing for 27th Avenue: Residents asked for C-curbing, the little bricks used to demarcate some center turn lanes, for 27th Avenue. Nielsen said that the hard channelization they proposed would cause 18-wheelers to use the oncoming lanes for making their wide turns. We dont care about the trucks, came a quick response. Instead another solution might be candles, the flexible plastic tubes anchored in the road. He said 27th will be widened to five lanes by the developers of an adjacent resident complex on the west side of the avenue but he couldnt give a timeline for this. Houses have already been torn down, he stressed.
Im 78 now, I cant wait much longer, quipped Larry Solem.
Emergency access: According to some residents it is taking up to 20 minutes for fire and paramedics units to get through the peak hour Lakewood traffic. Contacted after the meeting, Marysville Fire District chief Greg Corn said that was an exaggeration, saying the districts response time from the nearest stations has been negligible.
Getting in there is pretty easy, said Corn, who did not attend the Jan. 18 meeting but had to weather the same traffic as everybody else during his Christmas shopping. But I do understand their frustration in getting out.
Funding: Developers paid the city $3.8 million in mitigation fees before any dirt could be moved. Crystal Tree manager Elwood Corulli wanted a reckoning.
Where did that money go when it should have gone to roads? Corulli asked. We deserve more than four stop signs.
Swenson said the city is not sitting on its hands but is pursuing innovative funding, such as borrowing money to finish projects like the 116th Street widening, where at the same time developers did their side, Marysville did its side, saving time and frustration.
The city could just wait until the money is there; were not doing that, she said. The Council gets this, they understand whats going on.