The westbound US 2 trestle is the only direct highway route across the Snohomish River to the I-5 corridor in Everett. With significant population growth in Snohomish County, the westbound trestle is busier and more congested, especially during typical commutes that occurred prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The existing structure does not have enough lanes to handle usual daily needs or future traffic demands. In addition, due to lack of HOV or other managed lanes, or bike and pedestrian paths, there is little incentive for drivers to use other modes of transportation besides their cars. Finally, the westbound trestle, which was completed in 1968, does not meet current design standards.
In 2019, WSDOT began gathering information about evolving traffic patterns and growth, and their effect on the westbound trestle. A panel of traffic engineers, transit experts and land use planners, along with elected representatives studied different replacement concepts to see how each would affect the transportation system as a whole in the Everett/Lake Stevens area.
Cause of congestion: it’s not just US 2
We found that a new or upgraded trestle with more lanes would not eliminate westbound congestion on its own. Before the pandemic, southbound I-5 through Everett was typically packed with commuters on weekday mornings. With no improvements to I-5 planned at this time, the backups during peak commutes will begin earlier and last longer. Traffic on a wider US 2 trestle would still back up as vehicles slow down and try to squeeze onto a congested I-5. A wider trestle would move existing chokepoints and backups closer to Everett.
The replacement concepts evaluated
The expert panel started with more than 40 concepts with an eye toward the amount of traffic expected in 2040. Most concepts were immediately eliminated due to safety concerns and the high cost of rebuilding portions of I-5 to accommodate new or improved connections with US 2. Two representative concepts emerged as the most feasible and were selected for additional evaluation:
- A new four-lane trestle with three general purpose lanes and an HOV lane for carpools and buses.
- A new trestle with three general purpose lanes, one of which becomes a short HOV/bus bypass lane at the I-5 interchange.
Prior to developing and evaluating the two concepts, project and traffic engineers forecast the amount of traffic expected on westbound US 2 in the year 2040. We used projected population and business growth, and transit plans. This includes Community Transit’s long-term plans and Sound Transit’s planned light rail extension to Everett. Here are six key takeaways:
- Highway congestion: Increasing the capacity of the westbound trestle doesn’t alleviate congestion during morning commutes. Future congestion on I-5 limits the effectiveness of US 2 westbound trestle improvements.
- Three-lane trestle: A three-lane trestle would provide enough room for the traffic expected in 2040, if congestion is addressed on the highway network
- Managed lanes: Managed lanes such as transit, HOV, express toll, or peak-use shoulder lanes could provide people an option to bypass congestion.
- Walk, bike, roll: A long-term solution for the westbound trestle would provide an opportunity to create a valuable active transportation corridor between communities east of the Snohomish River and downtown Everett.
- Mode share: The share of HOV and transit vehicles on the corridor during morning commute hours is expected to be less than 9% in 2040. Transit provides would need to include or increase service plans to give people a choice beyond single-occupancy vehicles and ensure service is coordinated with local and regional land-use planning.
- Environmental considerations: The baseline environmental conditions are unlikely to serve as key differentiators among trestle alternatives. But potential adverse effects on sensitive areas and requirements to avoid, minimize and/or mitigate environmental effects are likely going to be key considerations in developing a long-term solution.
Traffic analysts and the elected representatives who advised us agree that we need to further develop the three-lane concept that includes a transit/HOV lane or a managed lane such as a toll lane or peak-use shoulder. Additional consideration is needed for how I-5 limits the effectiveness of a wider trestle to determine what improvements need to be made to the highway and surface street network in the Everett area.
We want to hear from you!
Please take a moment to provide your feedback in our survey. The survey will close on Oct. 16, 2020.
Due to technical difficulties some people have experienced completing the survey, those who wish to participate may also email US2TrestleInfo@wsdot.wa.gov and request a survey. We’ll send you a version that you can fill out and return to us. We won’t keep your email address on file or associate your name with the survey, so it will remain anonymous.
We’re finishing the initial study work. This report, along with your comments and feedback, will be used in future environmental documentation. Upon identification of additional funds, WSDOT would move forward with design refinements and consider improvement needs on I-5. After that, we’ll select a preferred alternative, complete the environmental process, and outline cost options for the preferred alternative.