Tackling the traffic on SR 522 and other local roads | Editor's Notebook

Which way do you go?

Some mornings, I’ll drive from my north Seattle home along Lake City Way through Kenmore and Bothell en route to the Reporter’s office in Kirkland. Other days, I’ll horseshoe it around Interstate 5 to Interstate 405 and blast up to Totem Lake.

I usually don’t have a problem with State Route 522, even since the State Route 520 bridge tolling went into effect last month and people are hitting that road harder.

It’s a pretty smooth drive for me. Sure, there’s some more traffic on the road nowadays, but I guess I’m lucky to avoid any sort of mess because of my brilliant timing, right?

However, variety is the spice of life, and I like to do the 5-to-405 thing some days. That’s turning into a big mistake lately. Instead of blasting to the office along the 405 corridor, it’s been a painfully slow crawl with everyone doing the same thing to avoid paying the tolls on 520. Now we’re “paying the price” big time on 405, as well. I’ve learned my lesson, though, and I don’t plan on 405-ing it the whole way anymore. (I’ve still got to deal with it from 522 and on to Kirkland; but there’s also the choice of cutting up other roads and across to work.)

Kenmore Mayor David Baker and others are finding life on 522 and other local roads tough these days, too. (From my driver’s seat on Wednesday morning, I  could see cars galore heading westbound on 522 through Kenmore; as I made my way down through Bothell, it didn’t seem too backed up on 522.)

One day last week, Baker was set on taking 522 up to Lake Forest Park and then on to I-5 for a meeting in Olympia.

“It took forever,” said Baker, who left City Hall at 8:55 a.m.; 35 to 40 minutes later, he finally found I-5.

From the data he’s seen, Baker noted there’s about a 13-percent increase of traffic on 522 since the tolling began. “A number of residents I’ve talked to say it’s taken 20 to 30 minutes longer to get into downtown than it used to,” he said of Seattle-bound drivers.

Simonds Road Northeast and 68th Avenue Northeast/Juanita Drive Northeast are also seeing some extra auto action, said Baker, who added that two car-counter tubes have been placed on those roadways. He’ll get back to us with statistics soon.

So we’ve all heard about 522 getting bombarded with traffic, but what’s life like on those other roads?

“In the morning, there’s a much longer line of cars up Simonds Road from Juanita than there used to be,” Baker said. “And the queue is back out to the bridge with people taking 522 to 68th and then a left onto Simonds.”

When I told Baker about my ordeal on 405, he shot back with a laugh: “You’re the reporter, you’re supposed to get out there.”

Agreed upon, Mr. Mayor, we’ll see how it goes. Good luck out there.

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