Sultan flexing its muscles as it seeks fixes for U.S. 2 congestion
SULTAN — The City of Sultan is trying to take the matter of fixing U.S. 2 congestion into its own hands.
The city hired a consultant company to produce designs with the goal of reducing traffic wait times, and last week more than 80 people attended an open house at Sultan City Hall to give comments on these.
Some of the drawings feature roundabouts to replace the stoplights along the 3-mile section in Sultan.
A different concept widens U.S. 2 to five lanes while keeping the stoplights.
An open-minded concept repurposes Main Street to act as westbound lanes for U.S. 2 by splitting the highway through Sultan.
“It would take a lot for me to advocate for that” split, Mayor Russell Wiita said. He said roundabouts seem like the “most feasible” option.
Nearly 1,500 cars travel U.S. 2 through Sultan during any given peak time, which is upwards of 24,000 cars a day. Locals and long-distance travelers alike get stuck at the traffic lights in peak times.
“At least something’s going on” to find a solution, Eric Blanchet said after surveying the boards. He lives off of Sultan Basin Road.
If the city can get a roundabout built where Fern Bluff Road and Old Owen Road meet U.S. 2, at the Red Apple grocery store at the west edge of town, this would help clear up congestion through the rest of the section, he said.
Residents know gridlock all too well. If it’s Sunday, the Sky River K9 center can’t host dog training classes because of the congestion, the businesses’ owner Crystal Fagerness said.
Hordes of travelers are coming through on U.S. 2. Business leaders wonder if weekend travelers aren’t stopping in town as a consequence of wanting to get through the congestion as best as possible.
It often takes three to five minutes to get onto the highway, said Jack Stepanek, who lives off of Mann Road.
He and fiancee Christine said they’re a fan of the concept that keeps the road three lanes and uses roundabouts to ease congestion.
Using single-lane roundabouts can get traffic moved, but it will require roundabouts with double lanes when there’s peak traffic to get that many cars through seamlessly, said the head of the consulting firm Transportation Solutions, Victor Salemann.
In some concepts, a centerline curb would prevent making left turns at a few intersections such as 5th Street/Mann Road. This design idea leans on using the roundabouts here: Drivers wanting to turn left would have to first turn right and then circle back at the nearest roundabout to effectively make the left turn.
Everything drawn into the concepts is sequential, Salemann said. There wouldn’t be a curb put in without the right roundabouts already set up for drivers, for example, he explained.
The idea of blocking turns through part of the street raised some eyebrows.
Resident Ruby Nambo, who lives south of the highway, said it could be time-consuming to turn and drive halfway through town to reach a roundabout and go the way you originally wanted.
The railroad runs close to the highway, too. Designers thought of how to keep traffic in the roundabouts from being jammed back to U.S. 2 because of a train: The designs have collector lanes for traffic turning south.
The city is taking it seriously. It’s in conversations with members of the 12th Legislative District, Wiita said. Legislators from the 12th, who live east of the Cascades, will represent both Monroe and Sultan starting January 2023 after the state re-drew the legislative maps.
Traffic impact fees which the city is collecting from new construction paid for the design drawings, city public works director Nate Morgan said.
The city is forming separate three workgroups who each will discuss and recommend their preferred corridor design. The three workgroups represent residents, stakeholders such as the fire department, and regional leaders such as Snohomish County.
The city expects to narrow its preferred design further in the fall. They are aiming to have a final preferred design decided by the end of the year, which the city will then lobby for.
Wiita said the city might go one step further to consider paying to have engineering work done to present it to the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
WSDOT has begun reviewing the designs by Sultan’s consultants. “We need to complete our review of the planning study draft report before we can determine the level of collaboration that will be appropriate,” Transportation spokeswoman Kris Olsen said by email last week.
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