In 2011, we will start work on a project to widen SR 9 between SR 524 (also called Maltby Road or 212th Street SE) north of Bothell and 176th Street SE near Clearview. We will add one lane in each direction of the highway, add turn lanes at 180th Street SE, install a raised median to separate oncoming traffic, and provide nine U-turns to ensure access to business and homes. This project is part of our ongoing efforts to improve traffic flow and safety on the entire SR 9 corridor. When finished, this segment of SR 9 will be similar to the recently-widened sections to the north and south.
What is the project timeline?
We are finalizing the project design and will advertise the project for competitive bidding in April 2011. We will begin construction in summer 2011 and expect to complete work in 2013.
How will WSDOT improve safety and reduce congestion on SR 9?
As Snohomish County’s population has increased, so have congestion and collisions on SR 9. We regularly hear from drivers frustrated with increased delays on the highway. In 2002, about 20,000 vehicles traveled this stretch of SR 9 each day; by 2014 more than 26,000 vehicles are expected to use the route each day. This project is part of our overall plan to transform the SR 9 corridor in Snohomish County into a wider, safer highway.
Between 2004 and 2009, there were 340 collisions on SR 9 between 212th Street SE and 176th Street SE – an average of more than one collision per week. Rear-end collisions and collisions involving turning drivers accounted for 274 of the total collisions. These types of collisions are typically associated with congestion. Widening SR 9 will provide additional capacity to improve traffic flow and reduce the risk of congestion-related collisions. We will also add turn lanes at 180th Street SE to remove turning drivers from faster-moving traffic in the through lanes.
Higher traffic volumes also increase the risk of serious crossover and head-on collisions as drivers try to turn across heavy oncoming traffic. To reduce the risk of serious collisions, we will install a raised median to separate oncoming traffic and limited access points for turning drivers. Raised medians work by limiting left turns across oncoming traffic on busy roads. Controlling where traffic can go minimizes the conflicts that lead to collisions.
We saw a significant reduction in collisions after we opened a new four-lane, divided section of SR 9 between SR 522 and 212th Street SE to drivers in fall 2007. Prior to construction (January 2003 through July 2005), there were 120 collisions on this stretch of the highway, including 75 rear-end collisions and eight collisions involving drivers entering or exiting the roadway at a driveway. Overall, collisions dropped by half after we opened the wider, divided highway to traffic. From December 2007 through June 2010, there were just 58 collisions on this stretch of SR 9. Rear-end collisions dropped to 30, and there was just one collision involving a driver entering or exiting the highway at a driveway. In addition, injury collisions were reduced from 13 collisions in the before period to just two after we opened the new lanes to traffic.
How will drivers get to their homes and businesses?
To ensure access to businesses and homes, we will provide nine marked U-turn locations (pdf 1.8 mb). Drivers can make U-turns at designated U-turn locations, and then make a right turn into a business or residence. U-turns will be allowed at the following locations:
Northbound to southbound
- 204th St SE
- Just north of 197th St SE (19400 block)
- 188th St SE
- 180th St SE
- 176th St SE
Southbound to northbound
- 201st St SE
- 197th St SE
- 188th St SE
- 180th St SE
How will the improvements affect businesses along SR 9?
Surveys of business owners along routes where raised medians have been installed show that most did not see a decline in their sales. In fact, many business owners believe that access management has actually improved their sales. One reason for this is that as traffic volumes increase, it becomes difficult and dangerous for drivers to enter and exit properties, particularly when they are closely-spaced. Businesses with safe and easy access are more inviting to customers.
Additionally, controlling access points with a raised median can also help reduce the congestion that results from frequent and closely-spaced driveways on busy roads. Traffic delays, including those caused by collisions, are bad for the economy and frustrating for business customers. If collisions and congestion become frequent, drivers will seek other routes. Access management helps keep traffic moving and can improve travel times, enhancing convenience for drivers.
Why isn’t WSDOT installing a signal at 201st Street SE?
We studied traffic volumes at this intersection and determined that a signal is not needed at this time. While a signal could improve traffic flow for drivers on 201st Street SE, it would likely cause significant delays and backups for northbound and southbound traffic on SR 9. In addition, in many cases traffic signals actually increase rear-end collisions due to drivers slowing or stopping unexpectedly.
To keep traffic moving on 201st Street SE, we will add right- and left-turn pockets to create more capacity for drivers turning onto SR 9. View the proposed changes (pdf 386 kb).
What are WSDOT’s plans for 184th St SE and 188th St SE?
Like many of our projects, this project has been affected by the rising costs of construction and materials. To keep the project within budget, we looked at ways to reduce costs while still improving congestion and safety. One cost-saving measure we implemented was changing our plans for 188th St SE and 184th St SE (pdf 6.75 mb).
Initially, we planned to eliminate the connection from 188th Street SE to SR 9 on the west side of the highway and build a new connection at 184th Street SE. To reduce costs, we will not build a new connection at 184th St SE or eliminate access at 188th Street SE. Instead, we will improve safety at 188th Street SE by changing the roadway alignment to improve sight distance and by eliminating left turns onto SR 9. Many of the collisions at this intersection involve turning drivers.