Lakewood drivers get free right turn back

LAKEWOOD The free right turn is coming back.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2008 12:29pm
  • News

Engineers will re-stripe 172nd Street NE/SR 531 to provide three eastbound lanes at the I-5 bridge at Smokey Point. Two will go onto the bridge while the third will provide access to the southbound freeway on-ramp. About 200 feet of the eastbound bicycle lane will be lost to provide room for the new turn lane. The picture shows the current layout

LAKEWOOD The free right turn is coming back.
After several new retail outlets opened here last year, bringing thousands of new car trips each day, the elimination of the right-hand turn lane onto the southbound freeway on ramps was the final straw for some residents.
Cars eastbound on 172nd Street NE used to be able to hit the on ramp during red lights without encumbering or having to wait for other lanes of traffic to clear. As Lakewood Crossing ramps up with Costco, Target, Red Robin, Taco Bell and other outlets open for business and many others soon to follow, longtime locals were incensed that just as more cars hit the roads, a vital lane was taken away.
Residents of Crystal Tree Village were calling Marysville leaders last fall to complain long and loud about what they said were dangerous traffic conditions just a couple months after the September 2006 Costco opening, the first of more almost 500,000-square-feet of new retail space on 50 acres of former Snohomish County land. Officials from the Marysville Public Works Department visited the retirement community only to feel the wrath of retirees who said they were hemmed in by congested streets with no outlets.
Since 172nd Street is also State Route 531, the Washington State Department of Transportation has ultimate jurisdiction and made the decision to remove what residents called the free right turn, they were told. That didnt sit well with many of the seniors, who accused the city of ducking responsibility for the mess while raking in the tax receipts.
Now the turn lane is coming back, probably within two weeks, city traffic engineer John Tatum told the Marysville City Council at their June 11 meeting. In exchange the state is taking away about 200 feet of the bicycle lane in the eastbound lanes on the south side of 172nd, but there will be two lanes for traffic proceeding straight onto the bridge. One of those will be a left-hand turn lane to the northbound on-ramp.
I was told to expect it by the 25th, Tatum told the council.
The change will also require redoing the overhead signs so drivers know which lane goes where, he added, noting that twice as many people are going through to Smokey Point than turn at the on-ramp.
This will spread them out, Tatum said.
City chief administrative officer Mary Swenson noted the builder of Lakewood Crossing, Powell Development, will be paying for the work.
It should help a lot with the traffic flow, Swenson said.
Tatum said the new lane is considered a temporary fix by WSDOT, but he wryly noted the glacial speed of some road infrastructure changes.
My use of temporary doesnt convey the permanence of this, Tatum deadpanned.
The new configuration should last until the state completes a partial cloverleaf for the interchange, where westbound cars would use a curved on ramp feeding from the extreme right lane over the bridge to access the southbound freeway. That construction will not start until 2010, Tatum said.
Marysville Public Works Director Paul Roberts said the state considers the new lane configuration as a steppingstone to a better interchange.
For Elwood Corrulli, better a steppingstone than a millstone hung around his neck. Corrulli is the manager of Crystal Tree Village, a retirement community of more than 200 units, a block west of the new Costco store. His residents have been vexed by the 13,000 new daily car trips Lakewood Crossing attracted to the area, and he said the new turn lane should ease things a bit.
I guess for now I dont know what else we can do but be thankful for little things and take what we can get, even if its in little increments, Corrulli said. We were thrilled just to get the cotton-picking four-way stop signs.
There arent too many bicycle riders on that stretch of street, so the 200-foot missing link shouldnt create any problems, he added.
Corrulli has asked the city to punch another road through to 172nd from his address on 25th Avenue but Marysville leaders said they are waiting for builders of housing developments on that street to do and pay for the work. Neighbors have gotten their hopes up as several houses on the land were torn down recently, but senior planner Cheryl Dungan with the Marysville Community Development Department said nothing is in the works. The property owners have demolished the houses but are not moving forward yet.
Theres no applications in yet, Dungan said.
It would take at least three or four months to review and approve the plans for the large-scale residential projects slated for the area, she explained, meaning any new road would still be a long way off.

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