Initial phase of 522 reconstruction is complete
Kenmore Mayor David Baker joked the timetable for the city’s ongoing State Route 522 improvement project is a bit confusing.
For example, on July 30, Phase II of the work officially became the first completed portion of the project.
City officials and state officials marked the occasion with a ceremonial ribbon cutting across a still-new sidewalk in front of the Kenmore Square shopping plaza.
“We have completely transformed the gateway to our community with the SR 522 improvement project,” Baker said prior to what the city billed as a public celebration marking completion of the initial revamping of Kenmore’s largest roadway.
“The improvements will ease congestion and improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and transit,” Baker continued.
Even as work was completed on one portion of the street, crews labored away on the overall project’s center segment, from 65th Avenue Northeast to 73rd Avenue Northeast.
Running from 60th Avenue Northeast to 65th Avenue Northeast, the so-called West Segment is in the planning stages and was the subject of a community meeting July 28.
Phase II ran between 73rd Avenue Northeast and 83rd Place Northeast. According to information provided by the city, improvements include:
• Widening the highway to add business access and transit lanes and paving SR 522 from 73rd to the east city limits.
• A new bridge was built over Swamp Creek, and the project included some habitat restoration.
• New traffic signals were installed along with crosswalks at 77th Court Northeast and 83rd Place.
• Utilities on the north side of the street were placed underground.
At the ribbon cutting, Baker noted those utility poles had come down only a few days prior and he added he couldn’t have been happier to learn they were gone. Washington State Transportation Improvement Board Executive Director Steve Gorcester said problems with the street were evident when the project started.
Among other issues, he mentioned inadequate mass transit lanes and no sidewalks.
“You could tell the highway was disconnected from the community,” Gorcester said.
City Public Information Officer Leslie Harris said crews will complete site clean up and landscaping work in the Phase II area over the coming weeks. Still, for now, the most work will be visible on the central segment of the project.
Advertised improvements completed or under way in that area include a realignment of 65th Avenue Northeast with SR 522. Realignment of Northeast 181st Street is currently under way, as is a widening of the intersection of SR 522 and 68th Avenue Northeast. Additional turn lanes have or will be added, as will a new traffic signal. Once again, crews are moving utility lines underground, along with adding sidewalks, street lighting and landscaping. Work is to continue into 2010.
Baker and others reiterated funding is not currently available for the west segment of the project. State Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Shoreline, said local representatives had not been able to secure dollars for SR 522 during the last legislative season, but added the project is a priority.
Probably the most notable feature of the west segment design is a median strip that blocks left turns on SR 522 between 61st Avenue Northeast and 65th Avenue Northeast. Kenmore City engineer Ron Loewen said the idea is to eliminate what city officials feel is an excessive number of accidents on that stretch of the road.
The collisions usually involve a car making a left turn into a business on the north side of the road and colliding with a vehicle in the transit lane on that side of the street.
According to business owner Jerry Dugan of Jet City Printing, such accidents probably happen about once a month. But he and others expressed concern regarding the elimination of left turns across a three-block stretch of SR 522.
City Councilman Allan Van Ness said the lack of left-turn possibilities was not a new worry. He said City Council voted July 27 to have designers look at left-turn pockets for that stretch of SR 522.
Van Ness noted similar pockets already are in place in such cities as Lake Forest Park and Shoreline.