ARLINGTON — Two traffic projects are set to kick off on Highway 531 this spring near the growing Cascade Industrial Center, where an already badly congested area will get even more busy.
The road improvements — construction of a four-way traffic signal at 40th Avenue NE and a roundabout at 43rd Avenue NE — are just two of many planned over the next several years to ease congestion and improve safety for cars, bicycles and pedestrians.
“These roads projects will provide a safer corridor,” said Jim Kelly, director of public works for the city of Arlington. “They will take a little bit of work and we will try to our greatest extent to minimize any type of impacts to the community or public.”
Amazon is building a five-story, 635,000-square-foot fulfillment center in the Cascade Industrial Center at 51st Avenue NE, off Highway 531. And there will be parking for 1,250 cars and 314 trucks. Amazon plans to open the facility by late summer, city spokesperson Sarah Lopez said.
Longtime north Marysville resident Ron Friesen said more roundabouts should help keep traffic moving through the congested area. His gripe is that local leaders have allowed major new developments before infrastructure improvements.
“It’s going to create a traffic nightmare right there,” he said of the Amazon facility.
Businesses at the Cascade Industrial Center, which covers 4,000 acres in Arlington and Marysville, are expected to generate more than 10,000 daily trips on neighboring roads.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation does not expect to begin road widening until at least late 2023, adding to congestion concerns.
Amazon will pay for the roundabout at 43rd Avenue as it prepares to open the new fulfillment center.
Kelly said he expects roundabout construction to begin in March, after the state issues a final permit for the project.
The project will have two phases. During the first phase, traffic on Highway 531 will travel through the intersection on two interior lanes, according to the city’s website.
“Their goal is to build the outside lanes first and then the inside (lanes),” Kelly said. “There will be through-traffic at all times and no turning movements on 43rd Avenue. Alternate routes will be provided for the neighborhood and people wanting to access Walmart.”
In the second phase, traffic will travel on the completed outer lanes so the inner lanes and center island can be built. There may be two to four full intersection closures at night, according to the city.
If construction begins in March, the roundabout should be complete in June, Kelly said.
More roundabouts are in Arlington’s future. WSDOT plans to build three more roundabouts on Highway 531 when it widens the highway.
Arlington expects to begin work in April on the new traffic signal at 40th Avenue NE.
The city will install a solid center median on Highway 531 from Smokey Point Boulevard to 43rd Avenue NE and remove the center turn lane and turning pockets. U-turns will be allowed at the new signal. There will also be ADA-compliant sidewalks, new intersection lighting and bus pullouts for a future transit route.
“Right now it’s extremely unsafe,” Kelly said. “You will see people running across the road because they want to get from one side to the other. There’s no safe place for them to cross.”
He said all road work will take place at night and include single-lane closures. He said the project should finish in about four to five months.
The $1.8 million project includes a $1.2 million grant from the state Transportation Improvement Board and about $698,000 in city of Arlington transportation funds.
Despite the traffic challenges, local officials have touted the new jobs the Cascade Industrial Center will bring. The new Amazon fulfillment center is expected to employ 1,000. According to officials, the nearby industrial NorthPoint Development in Arlington and Marysville may employ between 3,980 to 4,857, depending on the businesses that open there.