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#Finish522 effort looks to Olympia

MONROE — The midterms are over, but the campaign is just beginning for a new coalition that aims to fix congestion on state Route 522.
More than 45 residents, city officials and legislators showed up for a high energy meeting of the #Finish522 Coalition on Nov. 1. Staffers handed out swag including bumper stickers and buttons touting a #Finish522 tagline.
“This needs to be a campaign, run like a campaign!” state Rep. Carolyn Eslick told the crowd at Monroe’s City Hall. “It’s my mission in life now to get this hourglass fixed.”
The hourglass is the congestion-causing area along 522 that hasn’t been widened; the road before and after is four lanes.
Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas introduced a who’s who of local politicians who pledged support for an expedited fix but came with a tough proposition for their constituents.
It would take a gas tax of at least 5 cents to address 522 and the other major projects — such as replacing the Interstate 5 bridge that connects Portland and Vancouver — that would have to be included to induce the legislature to act. That and a massive marketing campaign.
“A couple years ago, I might’ve said no, but now I’m desperate,” a woman said to empathetic laughter from the assembly.
Duvall Mayor Amy Ockerlander shared her city’s concerns on the well-known traffic bottleneck. She described emergencies where police couldn’t get into town and said “it’s kind of a problem if you have a manhunt going on and officers can’t even get to him.”
Ockerlander described a two-mile morning backup into Duvall and evening gridlock on 203 through the city in a follow-up interview. She said the Woodinville-Duvall Road backed up as much as a mile across the Snoqualmie Valley, mostly by cars headed north on state Route 203 (which becomes Lewis Street) to Monroe.
The audience heard about seven ways to raise awareness about 522 woes. Thomas encouraged frustrated commuters to circulate petitions, contact legislators beyond their own district and encourage their companies to partner with the coalition.
Organizers will need to generate serious momentum to speed up what state Sen. Guy Palumbo estimated could be a $150 million project to widen the four mile stretch of 522 and improve local intersections.
Currently, $10 million is set aside for planning work beginning in 2025. Palumbo hopes the legislature will consider a gas tax in the next session, but said realistically, he would at least like to move up the $10 million for the planning process to 2019.
Several coalition members attended the meeting including state Sen. Keith Wagoner, and County Councilman Sam Low. The group also counts education and business leaders among its inaugural members.
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