Overpass expected to be renamed for 'Punks' Smith

SMOKEY POINT On July 16, state Rep. Kirk Pearson expects that a measure to establish a memorial honoring the late Arlington-born civic leader Oliver "Punks" Smith will finally be passed.

Pearson has sponsored House Joint Memorial 4030, which would designate the 172nd Street NE overpass on I-5 in Arlington as the "Oliver 'Punks' Smith Interchange."

"'Punks' led the group of local elected officials and business people who found the money to make the interchange a success," Pearson said. "Since he inspired and drove through the passage of the Transportation Relief Action Plan to build the overpass, it's only fitting to name the overpass in his honor. Not only did he work to make our community better at the ground level, but he served us all in many capacities. We knew he listened and acted in our best interests."

Pearson recalled that, at the time, "everyone said we should name it after 'Punks,'" it wasn't until he tried to do so that he discovered how time-consuming a process it would be.

The memorial petition to rename the overpass in Smith's honor was heard by the Senate Transportation Committee, but it didn't pass last year because it didn't make the cut-off date.

After passing the House this year, HJM 4030 was again submitted for a Senate Transportation Committee hearing, after which it proceeded through the Rules Committee and on to the Senate floor for consideration.

"It died on the Senate floor, after two years," said Pearson, who credited fellow state Rep. Mary Margaret Haugen with informing him that the Senate Transportation Committee could vote to approve the petition on their own.

"They'll be voting on it July 16, and I expect they'll affirm it," said Pearson, who noted the number of letters sent in support of the petition by members of the community, including the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce, the Arlington City Council and Mayor Margaret Larson, and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen.

Smith was born in Arlington in 1935 and remained an active member of the community until he passed away in September of 2007. Pearson noted that many area residents remember Smith for serving on the Arlington City Council for 20 years.

"He deserves to have a permanent landmark, that represents something he worked so hard for, and that reminds us all of his exceptional service to our communities," Pearson said. "It's a fine tribute to a gentleman who loved his community."

'Loop' to come for the 'Punks' Smith overpass

The reconstruction of the bridge into a six-lane structure, complete with bicycle lanes and sidewalks on both sides, was only Phase I of the improvements that the Washington State Department of Transportation has planned for it.

According to WSDOT Project Engineer Sharif Shaklawun, Phase 2 of the project will add a loop ramp to the northwest corner of the interchange, connecting westbound Highway 531 to southbound I-5.

The southbound ramps will each include an HOV bypass lane and a metered general purpose lane, while the northbound off-ramp will be widened for an additional lane. This project will also upgrade the signals at the ramp terminals, and at the intersection of Highway 531 and 27th Avenue, as well as the widening of Highway 531, to provide left- and right-turn lanes.

"This project, when complete, will reduce congestion and accidents within the interchange and for the connecting streets," said Shaklawun, who added that the project will construct a storm drainage system and treatment facility, as well as noise walls along I-5, and relocate of the park and pool lot in the northwest corner of the interchange.

The $30 million project is fully funded by the Transportation Partnership Program package, and is scheduled to be advertised for public bids in October of this year. Shaklawun expects construction to start in the spring 2009. He predicted the work will take two construction seasons to complete, and that improvements to the interchange should be complete by December of 2010.

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