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Chamber meeting turns into serious discussion on how 520 bridge tolling could affect 522 traffic

Many local business owners and residents had questions, and some shook their heads in confusion.

With Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Tolling Communications Manager Janet Matkin at the podium discussing the upcoming State Route 520 bridge tolling, people wanted to know how it will affect State Route 522 travel through Bothell and Kenmore.

Originally planned for April, tolling could be pushed back as far as late May or early June, Matkin said at the March 24 Greater Bothell Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Northshore Senior Center.

But people are already concerned about that traffic flow. For drivers who don't want to pay tolls, their options are taking interstates 5, 90 and 405 or wheeling it around Lake Washington on 522. Matkin said WSDOT officials have been working closely with all jurisdictions that may be affected and have been monitoring traffic flow with cameras.

"There will be a three-to-sixth-month period of adjustment, with people trying different routes, using public transit, carpooling and vanpooling, adjusting their work week. There will be a period when things will be a little crazy," Matkin said. "In improving the conditions on 520 (toll money is slated to pay for a new bridge), we don't want to create gridlock in other corridors."

Matkin added that WSDOT will monitor the roadways when tolling begins and "see what happens," a comment that had one attendee asking if drivers will be waiting in 522 gridlock all the while. Matkin said that drivers can expect traffic to roll about 5 mph slower, according to WSDOT's study. However, Seyed Safavian, Bothell's Public Works Department transportation manager, said in his meetings on the issue, they discussed a 5-percent traffic increase on 522.

Safavian noted that with school on the University of Washington, Bothell/Cascadia Community College campus dismissing when tolling could begin, the Bothell-Kenmore area won't feel the true impact of the traffic increase until September or October when school is back in session.

There's also the matter of roadwork taking place on 522 with Bothell's current Wayne Curve and upcoming Crossroads projects.

"We have discussed it with WSDOT, and that's going to be a challenge," Safavian said of the traffic mixing with construction. Matkin said that "tweaking" traffic signals is one way to help traffic move smoother.

Bothell businesswoman Leigh Henderson could only shake her head at what may be in store for Bothell and Kenmore residents when 522 gets a load of extra drivers. She drew out a map showing that East Riverside Drive near downtown and even 228th Street in Canyon Park, among many other roads, could be swamped, as well.

"The average Bothellite will be impacted on their commute. It's their pothole in the road," she said.

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