Work continues on Arlington roundabout

Construction crews work on preparing the intersection of State Route 9 and State Route 531 for a roundabout, on June 25. - Lauren Salcedo
Construction crews work on preparing the intersection of State Route 9 and State Route 531 for a roundabout, on June 25.
— image credit: Lauren Salcedo

ARLINGTON — Construction crews have been working on the intersection of state routes 9 and 531 to shift traffic to the intersection’s west side so that they can build the eastern half of the roundabout into which the intersection will be converted.

After having completed the paving on the area where traffic will be shifted, the Washington State Department of Transportation’s contractor, Interwest Construction, closed traffic on a single lane of State Route 9 the evening of Monday, June 25, through the morning of Tuesday, June 26, and again from the evening of June 26 through the morning of Wednesday, June 27, so that they could stripe, install concrete barriers and move the signal heads.

Weather depending, WSDOT anticipated that traffic should be completely shifted by June 27.

“By Wednesday morning, all traffic should be shifted to the west, and all our work will be outside of the traveled roadway, but the shift could potentially get delayed a day or two if it rains, since we can’t stripe if it rains,” said Dustin Terpening of WSDOT Communications. “Our daytime work will include forming and pouring the water vault and roadway excavation.”

Interwest Construction began prepping the site on April 30 and commenced work in earnest during the week of May 7, when they began closing lanes at night. Terpening and Jay Brye, WSDOT’s engineering manager for the project, expect construction to last much of the summer, but expressed relative optimism about completing it early enough to make it convenient for area families.

“Our goal is to have the roundabout open in time for the start of the school year,” Brye said. “The eastern half of the roundabout should take about three to four weeks to complete, after which we’ll work in quadrants on the west side, first in the northwest quadrant, then in the southwest quadrant. The weather hasn’t been doing us any favors so far, though.”

Brye and Terpening both acknowledged the controversy caused by the roundabout’s installation, but they believe the roundabout will ultimately help protect motorists and make their commutes more convenient.

“Jay and I have had meetings all over Snohomish and Skagit counties about roundabouts, and we’ve heard from both sides of the debate,” Terpening said. “The fact of the matter is that you’re not going to get T-boned or rear-ended in a roundabout like you would in a traffic signal intersection like you have at state routes 9 and 531 now.”

Terpening explained that roundabouts force drivers to slow down and eliminate left turns, both of which make them safer, and while the roundabout currently under construction is being striped for single-lane usage, it’s being built wide enough to be re-striped as a double-lane roundabout as 172nd Street NE is widened in the future.

“You don’t have to worry about people running red lights at 50 miles per hour and colliding with you,” Terpening said. “I know some folks are worried that roundabouts aren’t wide enough to handle truck traffic, but we’ve specifically designed this roundabout to be able to accommodate anything from large trucks and buses to emergency response vehicles and horse trailers.”

“By increasing the intersection’s capacity down the line, we’re alleviating the bottleneck at that point,” Brye said. “It should work efficiently even with the significant amount of development that’s anticipated to occur in the area. The surrounding area is planned as a commercial and industrial center for the region, and local planners expect more homes, businesses and drivers in the future.”

In the meantime, crews will work on both the intersection itself and the surrounding drainage system and water mains.

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