Fixes for 522 bottlenecks are being designed
today, but actual construction timeline hazy
MONROE — Progress is steadily being made behind the scenes to widen the last part of state Route 522 and completely redo the Maltby Road/Paradise Lake Road intersection to get rid of the stoplight.
Sometime by 2024, engineers will get the project to a significant 30% design-build milestone, a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman said. Once the 30% design is complete, in layman’s terms all the basic construction drawings will be ready for a contractor to pick up, finesse the details and move ahead.
Accumulating construction money to cross the finish line, though, will take certain political will within the state Legislature.
More than 26,000 cars a day go through the three-mile highway section.
This fall, WSDOT will begin approaching property owners primarily around the interchange to buy their land for highway right of way, spokeswoman Kris Olsen said. (The Maltby Café and Maltby Pizza and Pasta won’t be impacted.)
The widening and the interchange are being treated as a single project package, and it would be built all at once. They were combined a few years ago in consultation with the Legislature for logistics and efficiency reasons, Olsen said.
“We are planning it as a single project, so it would not be (in phases),” Olsen said.
It took years to piece together the $33.55 million in money for engineering and design work.
It could cost another $157 million to build it all, based on cost estimates from a few years back. The project currently has zero dollars allocated to construct it.
But when it’s done, it will finish the gap and fix a traffic backup in one take.
The interchange would leap the highway over Paradise Lake Road* in the concept, eliminating the stoplight. Each side would have ramps. The ramps would tie in to new roundabouts, a feature that wasn’t there a few years ago.
Today’s Yew Way and Broadway would be truncated for the roundabout design.
The railroad tracks are a major factor, Olsen said.
The proposed interchange at Paradise Lake Road and Maltby Road has four roundabouts and has the highway fly over the road without a stop.
Yew Way is being cut off because there isn’t enough room to build a connection into the roundabout.
Broadway can’t be tied in because it sits on the other side of a rail line.
Instead, Broadway would be rerouted to connect to 86th Street SE behind Maltby Cafe, WSDOT draft maps show.
The widened 522 section would have two lanes of traffic each direction. The project calls for building a new eastbound bridge at Fales Road/Echo Lake Road. There was foresight to set aside space for a widened highway.
Construction funding is the next immediate problem to solve. Local leaders at all levels have largely unified to finish 522.
A new one on board is State Sen. Brad Hawkins, a Republican in East Wenatchee who becomes Monroe’s state senator when legislative boundaries shift in January.
Hawkins said he’s been apprised of the needs and supports the project.
Hawkins was the only Republican to vote in favor of Sen. Marko Liias’s Move Ahead Washington transportation funding package, which faced Republican opposition because it was seen as being developed by Democrats versus a bipartisan package and because it gets its revenue by raising multiple consumer fees such as the cost to renew a driver’s license or vehicle plate. Monroe city officials cheered, though, as, within the package, it dedicated $10 million to state Route 522.
Hawkins said the 522 program could require another package, and there may be a way to do it.
It could take years for another large-scale transportation funding package to materialize, he said. “However, since the Move Ahead package was not strongly bipartisan, I believe there is interest among Republicans (whose districts were largely left out) to develop a smaller-scale package in the coming years. Many of us believe a series of smaller packages, approved every few years, would be better than large plans approved every 8-10 years. One troubling situation for the 522 project, however, is that WSDOT (and its contractors) can only handle so much work in the years ahead, and successfully completing the Move Ahead Washington package of projects is going to keep them very busy,” Hawkins said by email.
While funding for design work often trickles in small pieces, constructing funding can burst open if there’s enough gravity. It tends to come in much bigger chunks, Olsen has seen.
A large portion of 522 was widened in the mid-2010s. Until the rest is widened, the gap appears to be status quo. Transportation talked about utilizing the shoulder lanes during peak times, similar to the U.S. 2 eastbound trestle, but this idea was declined because it could make driving the corridor more complicated for drivers, Olsen said.
CORRECTION - Aug. 1, 2022
In this story where it discusses the Maltby Road/Paradise Lake Road grade-separated interchange concept, the story reported that Maltby Road/Paradise Lake Road would be altered to have a bridge over the highway. The reporting is reversed. The concept has the highway go over Maltby Road/Paradise Lake Road.
The Tribune regrets the error.
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