Thursday, October 31, 2013

What’s taking so long on the SR 9 widening project?

By guest blogger Kris Olsen
Looking north on SR 9

Widening more than two miles of State Route 9 near Clearview in Snohomish County is a large, complex project.  We began the project to widen the highway from two lanes to four in the summer of 2011. Naturally everyone who uses the highway or lives nearby is anxious to have the project complete and the orange construction barrels gone.  Regularly, we receive emails asking “what’s taking so long?” and “are you going to be done soon?”

To widen the highway we:
  • Cleared dozens of trees
  • Built retaining walls
  • Filled in huge sections for new lanes
  • Installed new 84” and 96” diameter culverts
  • Rebuilt the 180th Street Southeast intersection
  • Installed new highway drainage systems
  • Built new ditches
  • Repaired a stream
  • Wired electrical systems for new highway lighting
  • Strung fiber optics
  • Built new storm water retention ponds
  • Paved, paved and then paved some more to build up the two sides of the highway
What’s the current status of the highway?
We’ll hit a milestone the weekend of Nov. 2-3. That’s when crews will install a massive structure known as a signal bridge at 180th Street Southeast. The signal bridge will eventually hold all the new traffic signals and signs. The work requires a full closure of the intersection. You can get all the information about the closure on the project website.

The final layer of pavement has been placed, except a four-block section between 180th Street Southeast and 176th Street Southeast. Although we’ll try to get it done this year, weather may prevent it from occurring until spring 2014.
Striping crew on SR 9

Crews are currently restriping the highway section by section. Two lanes in both directions are now open between 212th Street Southeast/SR 524 and 201st Street Southeast. Next up is the section from 201st Street Southeast to 188th Street Southeast, followed by 188th Street Southeast to 180th Street Southeast and then 180th Street Southeast to 176th Street Southeast. Specific striping dates depend on weather and the availability of a striping crew. Our construction update report will keep you informed about work plans that will affect traffic.

Construction doesn’t come without challenges
Heavy duty roller compacts newly installed
asphalt during a break in the weather
Road construction work always has challenges. In coordination with our contractors, we plan schedules weeks, even months in advance to ensure the crews, equipment and resources are available. On SR 9 the contractor was all set to begin the final paving in early September which is traditionally one of the prime months to perform this work. What happened? The skies opened and September ended up as the wettest on record. We can’t pave highways in the rain. Projects throughout the region were rained out. Suddenly everyone’s carefully planned and coordinated schedules are being compressed into mere weeks, putting enormous pressure on private sector pavers and the striping companies. They’re now scrambling to reschedule everything into a much shorter time period. SR 9 is one of many WSDOT projects jockeying with local agencies and private companies for their time and attention. We’ll continue working on striping the project and the contractor is working hard to bring in additional resources.  Over the next couple months, drivers should be prepared for lane closures as crews begin building the raised center median and U-turn locations.

We hoped to have the entire project completed this fall, but some work will have to wait until next spring. We appreciate the patience and understanding of people who use SR 9 through the area. WSDOT remains committed to delivering a well-constructed highway that will serve the area for many years to come.


Ben said...

The concrete transitions from grooved pavement to normal pavement are terrible. I have now blown 2 tires and cracked a wheel. Its pretty much the same as going head on into a curb. The sharp jagged instant 3 inch concrete raises are the worst ive seen. I drive this to and from work daily and have had to find alternate routes strictly due to these wheel destroyers. I can deal with the traffic, but I hope these transition points can be a more gradual sloped transition in the future.

Rich & Ceil's BLOG said...

Just what does it take to pave? They have missed several days in Oct. of dry, 58deg. weather, not to mention all of August. If your not going to pave, fix the transitions. The severe levels on 188th are just as bad those on SR 9 @ 177th.

Anonymous said...

What is required to pave? It has been upper 50's and dry several days and no paving! You had August and Sept to pave yet little or no work was done. If you can't seem to get it done at LEAST fix the transitions from where you ground and the pavement at 177th & SR9 and on 188th & Sno Ave. It's dangerous and damaging to vehicles.

WSDOT said...

Thanks, everyone, for your feedback. We agree that the transitions between paved and ground pavement in many areas need some work. The contractor is working on a plan to smooth out the transitions. We hope to have that taken care of very soon.

Drivers whose vehicles or tires were damaged may file a claim by going to: or calling 1-800-737-0615.

As to the question of why we didn’t pave in August or September, we actually did. Keep in mind construction work needs to be completed in a certain sequence. We couldn’t begin putting down the final layer of pavement until other construction tasks were checked off the list. Once those items were completed in August, we began the final layer of pavement in September. However, the paving on SR 9 was rained out like all the other paving projects around the area. Now, all the projects that were rained out in September and then fogged out earlier this month are trying to complete the work. Unfortunately there simply aren’t enough private sector paving and striping crews to work on all the projects on good weather days. We are still working very closely with the contractor to get as much paved, striped and open on SR 9 before the even worse weather sets in. Thanks again for your patience.

Anonymous said...

DOT wastes so much time and money it is a joke. You people can't plan anything in a timely manner.

WSDOT said...

In response to “Anonymous”, of the 344 Nickel and Transportation Partnership Account (TPA) projects completed to date, 88% were on time and 92% were on budget. Please check the agency’s Gray Notebook for more information. The SR 9 project, which is funded by Nickel and TPA funds, is also on budget.

Gray Notebook link

Jeff said...

How about people stop complaining and thank the people trying to get this job done. I drive 9 every morning and hate the traffic, but I
have no problem going around the construction or should I say the drivers that can't drive. it's so easy to complain these days.

Thanks for making the improvements for future driving.


May said...

I am curious if there are plans to widen highway 9 from Marsh Road in Snohomish up through Lake Stevens? If not, why not?

I drive that every morning and afternoon and am always backed up going south in the morning- 56th st until you pass over the Snohomish RIver Bridge. And in the afternoons, Northbound from Bickford Ave up until you pass over Highway 2 is always backed up.

WSDOT said...

Dear May,

Through between 2000 and 2017, WSDOT will invest $300 million to transform SR 9 into a wider, safer highway. Proposed projects include widening it to four lanes between Marsh Road and 2nd Street in Snohomish and building a new southbound bridge over the Snohomish River. We’ve also done preliminary engineering for improvements at the SR 9/SR 204 intersection. However, construction funding is not available at this time. If you would like to see additional improvements and funding for SR 9, please contact your local and state elected leaders. You can learn more about WSDOT’s SR 9 corridor improvements at

Wayne said...

I am wondering why WSDOT has not analyzed and fixed the horrible backups that are created each weekday morning from 176th to 180th street? What used to take me 2 minutes from my house at 156th, now takes me 12 minutes. The turn lane that used to exist to turn right at 180th has not been opened up, furthermore there used to be enough area to turn right off of 180th to turn onto highway 9 is not there as well. I understand that weather is a factor in paving/striping but there were weeks in the summer where no work was being performed in perfect weather. Whomever is the project manager for this addition should take a long hard look at howe screwed up this area is presently. The jet dryer was a nice attempt to make it look like something was being accomplished, but seriously this is a disaster that could easily be partially rectified by someone taking the time to view the backups and all of the areas not flowing how they used to. From and original completion time of Summer 2013, to now Spring 2014 is ridiculous. Again I fully understand this is a large project, but please take the time and fix the turn lanes and possible signal timing.

Thank you

WSDOT said...


Thanks for your feedback regarding SR 9. Traffic patterns and backups will change during road construction. It’s generally not effective to analyze traffic in the middle of it because a solution put in place one week may not work a month later as construction progresses.

The jet dryer that we used was critical in allowing the contractor crew to put down the final layer of pavement between 176th and 180th. We needed the final layer so that we can install the temporary striping. We’re hopeful that a couple weather windows this week will be long enough to get most the temporary striping complete and allow us to open more lanes, including turn lanes at 180th and ease backups. We were originally scheduled to complete this project in the fall of 2013, not summer 2013 and the vast majority of it is complete. In spring, we should have some minimal paving and the permanent striping to finish.

For a more in-depth explanation, please check the update on the project website at:

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