The Herald of Everett, Washington
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Bill Sheets | bsheets@heraldnet.com
Published: Monday, February 6, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Get used to Smokey Point on-ramps

Michael Powers of Stanwood writes: The new overpass at 172nd Street NE (Highway 531) and I-5 is wonderful except for one road-rage boiling point. It's on the ramps to southbound I-5 -- the short ramp from eastbound 172nd has a sharp right bend and it's hard to make that turn and look for traffic coming from westbound 172nd down the loop ramp, which is traveling at 60 mph or more.

Wouldn't it make sense to install an "allow traffic to merge" sign for drivers on the loop ramp?

Bronlea Mishler, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, responds: We understand that the new on-ramps from Highway 531 to I-5 at Smokey Point can take some getting used to, especially if drivers don't use them on a regular basis. The loop ramp from westbound Highway 531 crosses under Highway 531 and merges with the on-ramp from eastbound Highway 531 prior to reaching I-5.

Once the eastbound and westbound on-ramps merge together, drivers have extra distance to speed up before merging onto I-5. The angle and height of the eastbound ramp as it approaches the merge area with the westbound ramp gives drivers ample opportunity to see and anticipate traffic coming from the left on the westbound ramp.

Though state law doesn't specifically state which driver has the right of way at a freeway merge, merging is a shared responsibility between drivers. Drivers on the westbound on-ramp need to be considerate of drivers entering from the eastbound on-ramp who are entitled to join the traffic flow.

To draw attention to merging traffic, each ramp has a yellow merge warning sign installed to help remind drivers they may need to adjust speed and make room for merging traffic ahead. Eastbound on-ramp drivers have their own role to play, and should adjust their speed to match that of drivers on the westbound ramp, then use their turn signal, and merge into the best available gap in traffic.

Jeff Dahl of south Everett writes: I work in Mukilteo. Traffic is often backed up on 121st Street SW with drivers trying to turn onto the Mukilteo Speedway (Highway 525). It's usually those who are trying to cross two or three lanes of traffic to get into the left turn lanes to turn left on Harbour Pointe Boulevard SW to make a U-turn at the light.

Would it be possible to paint lines and arrows on 121st to create two lanes to separate those trying to cross the speedway from those trying to make an immediate right turn?

Mishler, of the transportation department, responds: Jeff has a great idea and our traffic engineers are taking a closer look to see if it's something we can do. Giving drivers a second lane from 121st Street SW to northbound Highway 525 would potentially shorten the wait for drivers who want to head north past Harbour Pointe Boulevard SW.

Drivers intending to make the left at Harbour Pointe Boulevard SW would wait in a separate lane for a gap large enough to weave across. Once our engineers verify that two vehicles can safely turn at the same time, including trucks making the turn from either lane, we will plan on making the change when we get better weather this spring or summer.

E-mail us at stsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your city of residence.

Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts.
Story tags » I-5Highway 531Highway 525

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