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City and Tribes try to keep traffic Grinch from stealing Christmas
MARYSVILLE As they discussed their recently adopted 2008 city budget, local officials pointed out over and over again that the citys sales tax has begun to outstrip property taxes as a revenue source.
Thats a pretty good thing for Marysville, said Chief Administrative Officer Mary Swenson.
But especially at this time of year, all the shiny new retail in the area attracts something not quite as beneficial as extra dollars for Marysvilles coffers. As shoppers head for the stores, they tend to bring their cars with them as well as their money. That means potentially huge traffic snarls at several spots, particularly near the Lakewood Crossing shopping plaza.
The Tulalip Tribes also have some potential traffic headaches near the Seattle Premium Outlets shopping mall.
First and foremost we want folks to know there are four exits to get to the retail centers, not just one, said Caldie Rogers, president of the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce.
The I-5 exits are at 4th, 88th, 116th and 172nd streets. Rogers also talked about downtown Marysville as a worthy alternative to the shopping centers and the outlets mall.
In terms of traffic, Rogers and others believe the biggest potential snarl revolves around the fact drivers coming out of Lakewood Crossing have no quick, easy way to head south without getting on I-5. The only other possible route is across the freeway overpass to Smokey Point Boulevard.
Still, City Engineer Kevin Nielsen and others said the city and the Tribes have taken at least two major steps to keep shoppers flowing in and out of the malls and plazas.
At the 172nd Street NE/I-5 interchange, traffic adjustments are aimed at reducing problems around Lakewood Crossing. Two month ago, 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. The changes also are meant to better accommodate drivers using the overpass to reach Smokey Point. On Nov. 15, the city reconfigured the middle lane of 27th Avenue behind Lakewood Crossing. From that middle lane, drivers now can turn right or left, as well as go straight ahead.
During a recent City Council meeting, Nielsen bragged the city got that change approved by the state and implemented in what he described as near record time.
At the 116th Street/I-5 interchange, 116th east of I-5 is now a five-lane roadway ending at State Avenue, with a signaled intersection meant to provide easier access to the Gateway Shopping Center. That Marysville project was complemented on the west side of I-5 by the Tulalip Tribes extension of Quil Ceda Boulevard. That work was completed in May. The two-lane roadway features a roundabout at the northern end where it connects with 34th Avenue NE and two left turn lanes at the south end connecting to 116th. On the Tribes side of I-5, the idea is better access to the Outlets mall.
So far into the holiday shopping season, the changes seem to be working, or at least helping. Various officials from the city and the Outlets mall all said there have been no major traffic accidents, not even during the so-called Black Friday shopping spree that happened the day after Thanksgiving.
The Outlet stores opened at midnight on Black Friday. Senior vice-president of Seattle Premium Outlets operator Chelsea Property Group, Michelle Rothstein said as many as 100 or more shoppers stood outside some stores waiting for their turn to get inside.
Both Rogers and Rothstein said the Outlets mall has seen a major influx of Canadian visitors, thanks to the sudden strength of the Canadian loonie against the American dollar.
We have seen a meaningful increase in our Canadian business this year as shoppers enjoy the added spending power in the U.S., Rothstein said. Both Rothstein and others said busloads of Canadians are arriving at the Outlets mall on a regular basis.
Tulalip Tribes and the Quil Ceda Village are working diligently with WSDOT to provide a safe and convenient shopping experience this holiday season, said Mel Sheldon, chairman Tulalip Tribes. We appreciate all of our customers, whether they are traveling from Vancouver, B.C. or Seattle and we will be looking at extra security to provide a safe and rewarding shopping experience.
Visitors can pick up maps of major area shopping spots and the best routes to those spots at the Marysville Tulalip Visitor Center.
In downtown Marysville, particularly on Third Street, Mary Burns of the Book Works, said November was a pretty good month for the shops in that area. She said Saturdays continue to be busy and described Third Street in particular as giving off a festive atmosphere. Burns said downtown provides a distinctive alternative to Marysvilles other shopping destinations, offering unique items that just arent available elsewhere.
As for traffic, Burns said there have been no extraordinary problems so far.