Lynnwood staff provide update on 196th Street Southwest widening project ahead of preliminary work

Traffic barrels line both sides of 196th Street Southwest in preparation of early work for the street-widening project.

With plans to completely redevelop 196th Street Southwest underway, Lynnwood staff hosted an online update last week to prepare the community for major road work scheduled for one of the city’s major arterials.

Around 50 people tuned in to the Feb. 3 briefing to learn the latest about the $40 million redevelopment project. It includes widening the roadway from the Lynnwood Convention Center at 36th Avenue West to Fred Meyer at 48th Avenue West by turning the five lanes into seven lanes and adding a landscaped median and 12-foot-wide sidewalks. The additional lanes on each side of the road will accommodate left- and U-turn lanes as well as bus use.

The project is scheduled to be completed by mid-2023, before the arrival of Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link light rail station in 2024. The east-to-west arterial currently serves 60,000 daily drivers. 

Light rail will also increase traffic on 196th as people drive (or take a bus) to the station. Once operational, light rail is projected to serve 47,000 to 55,000 daily riders and the street-widening will ease traffic congestion as the city aims to become a transit-centric hub.

“This is our main street in our city,” said City Engineer David Mach. “This is the street that people that come to visit drive down and see and think of Lynnwood when they see this street and our goal is to improve the aesthetics and appearance of the street.”

Improvements to the storm drainage system will require the crews to turn off the water in some areas, but Mach said the city would work with impacted businesses and ensure they receive plenty of notice.

“As we move into construction, our project team will consider this feedback and are committed to maintaining open lines of communication,” he said.

Digital renderings of the proposed seven-lane 196th St. S.W. street widening. (Courtesy of the City of Lynnwood)

To promote a walkable downtown hub, the project will improve pedestrian mobility in the City Center district. New street and pedestrian lighting will be added, and overhead utility lines will be moved underground.

“This project will be a catalyst in our economic development strategy for the Lynnwood City Center,” said City Center Program Manager Karl Almgren. “By developing our commitment to this corridor, the City Center vision of downtown Lynnwood becomes a reality.”

Following an initial overview of the project, project consultant Cayla Ravancho read questions submitted by community members — many from local business owners.

In response to a question about funding for the more-than-$40 million project, Mach said the project has received a $1.73 million federal grant for the design phase, and more than $24 million in state and federal grants from regional sources for right-of-way acquisition and construction. Mach said the city also allocated a “significant” amount of funds to the project.

Though heavy construction is months away, KPG Construction engineer Allen Prouty said the regular hours of construction will last from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Though there are no plans for regular night and weekend work, Prouty said there will be times when working during those times would be more convenient. Less traffic flow at night will allow crews to do more invasive work, including shutting off water affecting nearby businesses. 

“Although we’re not really planning on much weekend work, if at all, and the duration of this project being two and a half years, I’d be surprised if there weren’t a few times we were doing some weekend work out there as well,” he said.

When asked about the project’s timeline, Prouty said residents will see a ramp-up in the project within the next few weeks. Scheduling updates will be provided via message reader boards set up along 196th Street Southwest. Before any major road work begins, traffic controls like traffic signs, barrels and cones will be put into place.

Some work related to the project is already underway. As part of the right-of-way acquisition, the city obtained property at the corner of 196th Street Southwest and 44th Avenue West (former location of Precision Auto Tune and Liberty Tax). The building is currently under demolition and the site will require several weeks of work to clean hazardous waste in the soil from the auto shop. Both businesses have since relocated within the city.

Soon, Prouty said crews will progressively start working on the east end near 48th Avenue West. Then, the contractor will start on the northside of 196th Street Southwest at 48th Avenue West, with work progressing west.

“Before long it’s going to seem like we’re all over the place between 36th (Avenue West) and 48th (Avenue West),” he said.

Many businesses located along 196th Street Southwest rely on street access and have expressed concerns about the impacts of construction crews. However, Prouty maintained that the city will work with nearby businesses to minimize impacts by providing advance notice. Should there be concerns or issues regarding construction, staff will work with the community to provide support.

“If a business, for example, has two driveways, we’ll make sure we do one driveway first without touching the other driveway, so that you always have access or if there’s just one driveway we’ll do driveways half at a time,” Prouty said.

Prouty added that signage will be placed showing detours to access impacted business.

“We’ll set the traffic control so it’s clear where vehicles can ingress and egress to and from the businesses,” he said.

Crews have begun demolishing the building at the corner of 196th Street Southwest and 44th Avenue West.

One community member asked if the project would be as extensive as the 36th Avenue West redevelopment project that was completed last year. According to Mach, the 196th project is more extensive and complex, but it will take the same length of time to complete. Much of the reason has to do with the higher traffic volume on 196th Street compared to 36th Avenue West.

“We want to make sure we keep traffic flowing in and out of commercial businesses,” he said.

Once the project is completed, drivers will be able to make U-turns on 196th, which Mach said addresses the high number of collisions on the roadway, the second highest in the city. According to Mach, similar medians have been installed in other cities like Mukilteo and Shoreline and have had success.

“Since the road will be wider, with the additional lanes in each direction, that U-turn will be much easier to make,” he said. “So, instead of making the left turns mid-block, those turns occur at the intersections as U-turns.”

With this project coinciding with plans Sound Transit has to widen streets around the future light rail station, Almgren said the city is coordinating “heavily” with Sound Transit to make sure there are no conflicting crossover impacts. 

“We meet with (Sound Transit) early and often and we have communicated that these two projects are going to be in near time together,” he said. “We’re working with Sound Transit to make sure that both projects do not occur at the same time.”

Mach did note that one major impact will be closures to the on- and off-ramps for I-5 located near 196th Street Southwest. However, that is still six to seven months off, he added

Though this project does not include adding bike lanes to 196th — for safety and other reasons — Mach said the city has other options for cyclists and there will be more in future projects. He also suggested other areas that cyclists could use, like Veterans Way, the Interurban Trail and 200th Street Southwest.

Residents who live near the area on 196th Street planned for redevelopment asked if construction equipment would be staged in adjacent neighborhoods. In response, Prouty said the construction’s phasing will allow crews to move equipment so it doesn’t impact neighborhoods. After the site located on 196th Street and 44th Avenue West is cleared, equipment will also be held there, Prouty added.

Other major developments in the area include Northline Village — a redevelopment of Lynnwood Square located adjacent to the future transit center between 196th Street Southwest, 44th Avenue West and 200th Street Southwest. When asked if the 196th project would start at the same time as that redevelopment, Almgren said the city is coordinating with Northline Village developers Merlone Geier Partners (MGP) to ensure the work done on 196th Street accommodates any future projects.

For more information, community members can contact the project’s outreach team at 196street@lynnwoodwa.gov or by calling 425-224-2440. Community members can also visit the project webpage.

–Story and photos by Cody Sexton

  1. Why not expand the improvements as far west as Hwy 99 and east to the freeway? Won’t having just 12 blocks create bottlenecks and confusion as the sidewalks narrow and the medians and lanes disappear?

    1. What is being done to the parallel streets to compensate for the higher traffic on them used to avoid the construction?

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