Workers ramped up to finish UW-Bothell/Cascadia campus project
August 18, 2009 · Updated 2:09 PM
Tired of the construction barrels, detours and slower speed limits on Interstate 405?
All of the work is aimed primarily, of course, at adding a southern entrance to the campus of the University of Washington, Bothell and Cascadia Community College. And all those traffic headaches should be things of the past soon and probably quicker than you think.
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and UW-Bothell officials have announced a ribbon cutting for 10 a.m. Sept. 18 on the new lanes running from I-405 to State Route 522 in Bothell. The new ramps will open to traffic the following week.
WSDOT spokesperson Meghan Soptich Pembroke further noted the project is being completed eight months earlier than scheduled. Slated to be done in the spring, even landscaping work should start next month. And while easing traffic congestion is a major goal of the overall project, the ramp should lead to further growth at UW-Bothell.
“I can tell you the north entrance is an absolutely critical piece of campus infrastructure,” said Marilyn Cox, UW-Bothell vice-chancellor for administration and planning.
According to Soptich Pembroke, the early completion of the project is due to fast work and creative thinking by contractor Mowat Construction.
The state awarded the project to Mowat in January 2008. Construction began in April of that same year. Soptich Pembroke said the company hit the ground running with heavy staffing levels.
“They put a lot of people on the job,” she said, adding the firm also came up with some alternative ideas for staging the work.
For example, Soptich Pembroke said Mowat completed some earth moving that helped create the project’s large retaining wall during the spring and summer of last year. With that task out of the way, contractors were able to complete some structural work ahead of schedule over the winter.
Total cost of the project was given as $52.3 million, most of which came from gas taxes.
Besides providing access to the combined academic campus, WSDOT’s project Web site describes the work as relieving traffic congestion at the north campus entrance on Beardslee Boulevard, taking cars off Bothell city streets and improving mass transit access to the campus’ north transit station. Plans also call for improvement to SR 522 from the I-405 interchange to Kaysner Way in Bothell.
UW-Bothell Transportation Coordinator Ruth Honour said buses already make 484 stops at the campus each week day. She added her understanding is the new ramp will have an HOV lane allowing buses greater and quicker access.
Honour expects the new ramp will carry up to 80 percent of all traffic headed to UW-Bothell or Cascadia, which obviously greatly will reduce traffic at the north entrance.
Further, director of government and community relations for UW-Bothell, Kelly Snyder said 25 percent of her school’s student population comes from Snohomish County and obviously will benefit directly from the off-ramp.
Snyder also talked about the new ramp creating some safety benefits for Bothell, eliminating what she called an odd median and U-turn some residents exiting I-405 were forced to navigate just south of the campus.
According to Snyder and others, the ramp and related improvements actually were conditions imposed by Bothell officials.
Under an agreement reached with the city, Snyder said the schools at least had to obtain funding for the off-ramp before the combined student population at Cascadia and UW-Bothell reached 3,000. Snyder said the number of students attending the campuses actually should hit the 5,000 mark this fall.
“The vision to open this campus to its full potential has been achieved with the (ramp) project,” said Bothell Mayor Mark Lamb.
For her part, Cox talked about the ramp allowing the start or completion of several UW-Bothell expansion projects. For example, the school recently received a $5 million grant to design a new science and academic building. Further, with completion of the ramp, officials plan to update the school’s master plan.
Eventually, judging from Cox’s comments, that plan will include further student housing and “campus life” facilities. A student activities center is the focus of one upcoming planning study.