ARLINGTON — The Arlington City Council voted on Monday, Oct. 7, to lower the speed limit to a consistent 35 miles per hour on 172nd Street NE, between Interstate 5 and State Route 9, but motorists who commute on that road will still see a posted speed limit of 50 miles per hour between 67th and 43rd avenues for a little while yet.
“We hope to see the new signs put up by the time they finish striping that road,” city of Arlington Public Works Director Jim Kelly said of the currently under construction stretch of 172nd Street NE. “The way that state law works, the city and [the Washington State Department of Transportation] have to agree on what the speed limit for this road will be. After we set our ordinance, WSDOT will follow suit.”
Just getting to this point required the city of Arlington to go back to WSDOT, after the city’s requests to lower the speed limit were already denied three times by the DOT, which finally agreed to measure motorists’ speeds on 172nd Street NE, as part of a study which also analyzed traffic and accident volumes along the road.
“WSDOT agreed to lower the speed limit after they found that stretch of 172nd had 115 accidents in three years,” Kelly said. “When you’re going from 35 miles per hour, then up to 50 miles per hour, then back down to 35 miles per hour, in such a short stretch, that’s very dangerous.”
“Before we annexed that area, a 50-mile-per-hour speed limit made sense, because there was nothing there,” said Arlington City Council member Marilyn Oertle, who has also expressed concerns about the left turn off 172nd Street NE eastbound into the Stillaguamish Athletic Club and Weston High School.
“A lot of people also don’t see all the speed limit signs,” fellow Council member Chris Raezer said. “They might see the first 35-mile-per-hour sign, then the 50-mile-per-hour sign, but not necessarily see that they have to go back down to 35.”
Kelly explained that WSDOT is guided by very strict rules on this score, which required them to measure the speed at which 85 out of 100 cars were traveling at or below, as well as the 10-mile-per-hour range of speed that most vehicles were driving at. Since the state still needs to adopt the city’s ordinance on this score before it can become official, Kelly had difficulty predicting exactly when the new speed limit signs might be posted.
The City Council also voted that evening to authorize staff to publicly advertise for the construction of the 173rd Street Utility Improvement Project.
“When completed, 173rd Street will connect Smokey Point Boulevard to 51st Avenue, also known as Airport Boulevard,” Kelly said. “Construction on this road has been broken down into three phases, and we’re looking to install the water and sewer utilities for Phase 3 of the 173rd Street alignment, between 43rd Avenue and Airport Boulevard.”
The Council’s regular session meeting on Oct. 7 saw little discussion on this subject. Kelly had already explained to the Council during their Monday, Sept. 23, workshop meeting that an especially dry year had resulted in a water table that was 8 feet below the surface, rather than its usual depth of only 3 feet.
“We won’t have to do nearly as much dewatering,” said Kelly, who estimated that alone would yield the city $350,000 in construction savings. “We need those utilities to be in place before we build that road.”