Published May 2006

I-5 design-build approach
saves money, time
Snohomish County Business Journal/JOHN WOLCOTT
This Broadway “fly over” bridge is expected to be carrying traffic from Interstate 5 to Broadway by this summer. The new right-hand exit is a major part of the state Department of Transportation’s effort to break up one of the county’s major traffic congestion bottlenecks.

By John Wolcott
SCBJ Editor

By the summer of 2008, new north and south HOV lanes should be smoothing traffic flow through Everett, well in time to handle the influx of traffic and visitors expected in the area for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Major construction changes should provide significant relief for commuters and truckers who have endured years of sluggish stop-and-go traffic on Interstate 5 through Everett. There will be a realignment of roadways, a new overpass to Broadway and new HOV lanes and exits from East Marine View Drive south to SR 526 at the Everett Mall and Boeing plant exits.

Working under a $260 million state Department of Transportation design-build contract, designer CH2M-Hill and contractor Guy F. Atkinson expect to finish a six-lane 41st Street overpass by May 2007. A new right-exit ramp will lead to an I-5 “fly over” bridge to Broadway, replacing the old left-lane exit for northbound traffic.

The transportation department used a new design-build approach to the highway projects, saving both time and money. Also, state transportation officials are improving the effectiveness of the HOV project by combining it with a 41st Street bridge widening project that wasn’t scheduled for construction for two more years. The bridge will be torn down and rebuilt with a six-lane configuration in six months.

“The full project will be delivered more quickly than anyone imagined, with a savings of $6 million over doing the projects separately,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald during a visit to Everett earlier this year.

Started in September 2005, all of the Everett work is expected to be completed by mid-2008, three years earlier than originally planned under the traditional design-bid-build process.

“Efficient transportation systems are absolutely critical to the economy of our state. We can’t handle growth without adequate transportation. Expansion of the I-5 lanes through Everett, and adding a new Broadway off-ramp, will solve a problem of traffic backups that is a perfect microcosm of what’s wrong with our transportation system,” MacDonald said at a recent meeting of the Snohomish County Private Enterprise Coalition at the Everett Holiday Inn.

The six miles of widened freeway from SR 526 to the exit for SR 2, the HOV lane additions and the “fly over” exit to Broadway are funded by $220 million from the 5-cent-a-gallon gas tax approved by the 2003 Legislature. Gas tax increases voters approved last November for statewide transportation improvements are paying for the new $40 million, six-lane 41st Street bridge that will enhance the success of a new mixed-use development along the Snohomish River for housing, retail business and parks.

The new Broadway fly-over is being built with a right-hand I-5 exit that ramps up a curved bridge of concrete and steel that passes over I-5 and merges on the other side with Broadway. The new ramp and bridge are supported by 15 steel girders, each 106 feet long and weighing 43 tons, stretched over several T-shaped concrete support towers that have been built in the Lowell neighborhood east of I-5.

The two-lane, left-hand route that has been the only exit to Broadway for decades will become a northbound HOV lane exit for carpools, vanpools and buses when the “fly over” opens this summer. There also will be 4.6 miles of new southbound HOV lanes added from Marine View Drive in northeast Everett south to SR 526. Fewer slowdowns and easier merging and turning also are expected to reduce traffic accidents in the area.

“We’ve been conducting many meetings with residents to inform them about the project and hear their concerns,” said Victoria Tobin, DOT communications manager for the Everett HOV project. “They realize that if we wait, we will be paying more for inflation, materials and labor.”

One of the significant aspects of the project that gets little attention is the construction of water-treatment facilities for the freeway rainwater run-off from 280 acres of pavement, medians and sloping land. No previous I-5 project has provided anything but simple drains for storm water that flows into salmon-spawning streams, wetlands and the Snohomish River.

“We’re building six detention ponds and wetland areas to improve the water in the river, create new space for wildlife and provide recreation opportunities for the public. There will be very clean water from the freeway when it gets into Lowell and the river,” said Connie Lewis, public outreach manager for the design-build team of Atkinson and CH2M-Hill.

More information is available at, by sending e-mail to or calling 877-241-0770.

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© 2006 The Daily Herald Co., Everett, WA