Update July 23, 2019
The level of community engagement with this change has been outstanding, and we thank each and every one of you for taking the time to educate yourselves and spark conversation with fellow commuters regarding what improvements are/can be made along this corridor.
Opportunity for improvement
As mentioned in the blog, most of the collisions are rear-end or side-swipe in nature. The bulk of these collisions happen before or after a peak commute, as the mainline (20th Street) starts to open up. When drivers are traveling well above the posted speed limit of 35 mph on 20th, it is virtually impossible to safely merge from SR 204. That is why we are taking the opportunity presented with the westbound US 2 closure to make small improvements to remind drivers of current merging expectations.
Many of your comments are about the yield signs on SR 204. Yes, they will remain. As for moving the “freeway entrance” sign from up on 20th Street to past the merge with SR 204, we need downhill drivers to do their diligence and maintain the reduced speed to better match speeds from SR 204. This enables SR 204 drivers to find gaps and merge safely.
During traffic congestion, travelers naturally merge together as this is safe and courteous. SR 204 drivers are still required to yield to 20th St. drivers when necessary; especially outside of congested periods when traffic is more free flowing.
Investing in US 2
US 2 is one of the few year-round highways across Washington’s Cascade Mountain range, making it vitally important to the state’s entire transportation picture. From 2008-2017, WSDOT invested nearly $60 million in improvements on US 2 between Everett and the Stevens Pass summit. Projects included adding roundabouts, dedicated turn lanes, traffic cameras, new pavement, electronic message and warning signs, rumble strips and reduced speed limits. More improvement projects are on track to break ground along the corridor within the next 5 years.
For years, the westbound merge of State Route 204 and 20th Street Southeast between Lake Stevens and Snohomish has been a trouble spot.
Almost every reported collision is rear-end or side-swipe. Many times, downhill traffic on 20th Street is picking up speed as drivers on the westbound SR 204 ramp are slowing down to make the curve.
We’re taking steps this summer to change that.
A few months ago, our employee Shane Oden came up with a practical solution to noticeably improve safety at the merge. “More and more I have been hearing residents around the neighboring communities voice concern and frustration with this merge,” he said.
The majority of travelers agreed they need to all share the road, so Oden went to work on making it easier to do so. Rather than a new construction project, Oden developed modifications to the existing merge point that “are meant to remind and encourage motorists to slow down and stay alert,” he said.
So, when westbound US 2 is closed for a weekend this summer for the Hewitt Avenue trestle repaving and rehabilitation project, our maintenance crews also will use the existing closure to make the following changes:
- Relocate the “freeway entrance” sign currently near the top of westbound 20th Street Southeast to west of the merge point. The move means drivers won’t be encouraged to accelerate to highway speeds until after the merge.
- Install a new advisory “35 mph” speed limit sign on 20th Street Southeast approaching the merge. When SR 204 drivers are rounding the corner to the merge, the current speed limit advisory is 30 mph. Asking drivers on 20th Street Southeast to better match SR 204 speeds will create a safer merge.
- Install rumble strips on 20th Street Southeast leading up to the merge. The strips will alert drivers to slow down and allow SR 204 travelers to safely merge.
- Extend a white centerline off the gore point. This will encourage travelers to share the roadway, slow down traffic and create more space to see approaching ramp traffic.
- New location of "Freeway Entrance" sign.
These simple changes are a smart use of time and money to influence driver behavior, slow down traffic and cultivate a safer environment for merging onto a highway that serves roughly 22,000 drivers every day. They can also be implemented easier and more quickly than a more elaborate construction project, meaning travelers will see benefits sooner.
Bottom line, when we work together to share the road, we reduce the number of backups that can make an already long commute longer.