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Snohomish County’s Seattle Hill Road Improvement Project going ahead

Snohomish County is going ahead with an estimated $13.2 million project to improve Seattle Hill Road between 35th Avenue SE and 132nd Street SE whether Mill Creek participates or not.
Snohomish County plans to begin construction on the Seattle Hill Road Improvement project in 2017. Photo credit: Google Maps.

Snohomish County is going ahead with an estimated $13.2 million project to improve Seattle Hill Road between 35th Avenue SE and 132nd Street SE whether Mill Creek participates or not. With Mill Creek’s participation, there will certainly be bike lanes and sidewalks along both sides of the road.

However, according to Scott Smith, Mill Creek City Engineer, if the Mill Creek City Council decides not to help fund the project, the City will lose some of the existing sidewalks and hard shoulder when the road is widened and the construction of the new sidewalks and perhaps the bike lanes on Mill Creek’s side of the road will be deferred to a later date. In this scenario the City would bear the entire future cost for design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction of the sidewalks and bike lanes and won’t benefit from grants received by the County.

Snohomish County’s project calls for widening the roadway to three lanes, and also includes bicycle lanes, curbs, gutters, planter strips, and sidewalks on both sides of the road. The County hopes Mill Creek will contribute to the project as part of an interlocal agreement.

This portion of Seattle Hill Road belongs to the County, but the properties on the western edge of the right-of-way are within the Mill Creek city limits. This means that Mill Creek is not responsible for the road, but is responsible for the sidewalks and bike lanes on the west side of the road.

The majority of the Mill Creek City Council believes that improving Seattle Hill Road is way down the list of priorities for capital improvements within the City.

Ken Armstrong, Mill Creek City Manager, believes that the City’s joint participation with the County will ensure that the project maximizes the benefits to City residents and minimizes the City’s costs.

At their June 11, 2013, meeting the City Council only reluctantly agreed to allow City staff to continue discussions with the County on the project at the urging of Armstrong.

Snohomish County engineers believe that the Seattle Hill Road Improvement Project has the following benefits:

  • Ease traffic congestion during the morning and afternoon commutes by adding a center turn lane.
  • Reduce the risk of collisions by smoothing out the road’s curves and hills and improving sight distance.
  • Improve bike and pedestrian safety by adding dedicated bike lanes and sidewalks.
  • Improve storm water runoff quality by using tree-box filters, grass-lined retention areas, and porous concrete sidewalks with below-ground water treatment.

The estimated $13.2 million project is included in Snohomish County’s 2013-2018 Transportation Improvement Program and construction is expected to begin in 2017.

The Snohomish County Council approved the right-of-way plan at their July 10, 2013 regular meeting. This approval gives the Snohomish County Public Works Director the authority to approve appraisal contracts necessary for the implementation of the plan.

According to a July 2, 2013, County Council staff report the County has budgeted the funds to acquire the right-of-way and has received a grant to cover 58% of the estimated $1.5 million total cost.

Representatives from Snohomish County have been meeting with Smith and other City staff over the past few months to discuss an interlocal agreement to accommodate the necessary right-of-way acquisitions within Mill Creek city limits and to set the stage for actual construction.

Initial right-of-way calculations show that 45.1% of the total land that will be acquired for the right-of-way is within Mill Creek city limits. Snohomish County proposes that Mill Creek should contribute this percentage of the total right-of-way acquisition cost after the grant funds have been applied. Mill Creek’s share works out to approximately $300,000.

Snohomish County also proposes that Mill Creek contribute approximately $1 million to the actual construction, which works out to about 11% of the construction costs.  The City’s costs may be considerable less than that depending on the amount of additional grant money the County receives to fund construction.

During the interlocal agreement discussions, County staff said that if Mill Creek doesn’t participate in the project the road will be widened and some existing sidewalks and hard shoulder on the western side of Seattle Hill Road will be removed to accommodate this. Also, the County will design and construct sidewalks and bike lanes on the eastern side of Seattle Hill Road, but not on Mill Creek’s side.

Armstrong plans to bring the Seattle Hill Road Improvement Project Interlocal Agreement to the Mill Creek City Council for discussion in the next few months.

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