Taking Shape: Lynnwood road projects aimed at easing traffic congestion

For months, crews have been working to widen parts of 196th St. S.W.

Publisher’s note: This is the fifth of our regular updates on future Lynnwood housing, mixed-use and commercial developments. This series will also include updates on citywide transportation improvements.

With the goal of positioning Lynnwood as a regional transit hub with the arrival of Sound Transit’s light rail, the city has been working to widen and improve streets to handle thousands of anticipated daily commuters.

The 8.5-mile extension will bring light rail into Snohomish County in 2024, and by 2026, it is projected to serve 47,000-55,000 daily riders. To prepare for this, the city has identified key transportation projects aimed at easing traffic congestion around the future light rail station at 20100 48th Ave. W.

The city is also focused on improving roads around Alderwood Mall, where developers are expanding the retail spaces and adding multifamily housing. Lynnwood now has 38,000 residents; recent projections anticipate the city will have 54,400 residents by 2035.

“Each project provides its own benefits; you can’t say one is better than the other,” said City Engineer David Mach.

A major project for the city is the 196th Street widening project. The $50 million redevelopment 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 wider, 12-foot 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 light rail. The east-to-west arterial currently serves 60,000 daily drivers. Once operational, the street-widening will ease traffic congestion as the city aims to become a transit-centric hub, Mach said.

Earlier this year, crews began construction along 196th Street, making Improvements to the storm drainage system. In February, the former location of Precision Auto Tune and Liberty Tax at the corner of 44th Avenue and 196th Street was demolished.

Plans for 196th St. S.W. adding two lanes (totaling seven lanes).

Plans to widen the arterial have been in the making for 15 years, 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 $22.7 million to the project.

The city also wants to build an extension bridge over Interstate 5 connecting Poplar Way at 196th Street to 33rd Avenue West. City Center Program Manager Karl Almgren said the bridge would “reconnect Lynnwood to itself.” The bridge would alleviate congestion on 196th Street and provide an alternative grid street connection for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. 

“It’s gonna really help us strengthen this connection over I-5, which has been a barrier for us to work around,” Almgren said.

The total project cost is $49 million, with $39 million of that covering construction. So far, the city has received $3,209,000 in federal and state grants for project design and $3,050,000 in federal grants for the right-of-way acquisition phase. The cost to the city is listed as $16 million.

Staff said the completion date is dependent on funding. Typically, when Lynnwood applies for capital projects, the city two’s traditional funding sources — grants issued by the state Transportation Improvement Board and the Puget Sound Regional Council — max out at $5 million. 

The city has brought the proposal to state officials in Washington, D.C. multiple times to lobby for funding. Once the city receives funding, construction is projected to last about two years.

“It is by far the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to capacity,” Almgren said. “When it comes to capacity this is the number-one, highest-ranked project that we’ve got.”

Near the transit center, Mach said Sound Transit plans to widen parts of 44th Avenue West and 200th Street Southwest, adding “another lane or two” on both roads. Mach said the additional lanes will make turning in and out of the transit center easier. The road work is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

“It’s substantial roadway improvements,” Mach said. “It’s a big project.”

A digital rendering (north facing) of the Poplar Way bridge.

Mach said the city monitors traffic in the city using a traffic model that simulates future growth and the impacts it will have on streets. The study also produces a list of proposed transportation projects and identifies what roads need repair. Projects are funded by traffic impact fees paid by developers who come to the city.

“Those fees go into a fund that we then use for road projects,” he said.

Along Alderwood Mall Parkway, Kinect@Lynnwood developer American Property Development is preparing for potential road widening. Almgren said developers are required to complete their own frontage improvements, which means crews will be replacing the existing curb, gutter and sidewalk and dedicating any additional right of way that they need for future improvements.

“They’re not widening today but they’re dedicating a plan for a future project,” he said. “The cones will be moved away once they’re done setting the curb and doing their frontage improvements; they just need a buffer area to physically work the area.”

Recently, city leaders have discussed roads that need improvement. Some, like Lynnwood City Council Vice President Jim Smith, said the city should focus on improving neighborhood roads instead of arterials.

When deciding which roads will be improved, Mach said the city has prioritized ones that serve the community as a whole and are easy to receive funding for. Though traffic is one issue, the city has other needs like repaving cracks on roads and safety improvements.

The proposed 42nd Ave. W. street will create a more grid-like pattern giving the area a more “urban” feel.

“We have to take all of these different things that are all important and we have a very limited amount of funds and cannot fund all of these things — so that is a delicate kind of dance,” he said.

The city has been focusing growth in the City Center district and plans to create a new street, 42nd Avenue West, which will connect 194th Street Southwest to 200th Street Southwest. According to Mach, the approximately 2,000-foot street will open more properties for redevelopment and increase accessibility to the City Center.

“When you add a whole new road, it adds capacity and reduces congestion and it’ll break down the block sizes to make it feel more urban,” he said.

The project is estimated to cost $29.7 million, with the city covering $13.4 million. So far, the city has received a $3 million grant for the project and plans to enter the design phase this year, with a 2030 completion date.

Though it won’t offer capacity benefits, realigning Beech Road would benefit pedestrians and cyclists and provide improved access to nearby businesses. The project would add 1,000 feet of new roadway to one of the city’s original roads and will serve 3,000 vehicles daily. With plans to develop an 18-story, multi-family residential and commercial building on the former-Alderwood Medical Building site, Mach said the improvements will ease congestion in the area.

Predesign on the $4 million project began in 2017, which is expected to be completed in 2023.

For more information about the road projects, visit the city’s website.

–By Cody Sexton

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