By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published May 24, 2023
This story has been updated from the print version with new information
Finishing state Route 522 more possible
as design component now fully funded
MONROE — The last chunk of dough to design the future, wider state Route 522 is secure.
Legislators recently committed $33.6 million for 522 in the state Transportation budget.
The fresh pile of cash ensures no stall-outs, but it was no cakewalk: Gov. Jay Inslee's initial transportation budget delayed 522 design money to 2035, and the state Senate's version pushed the timeline out too.
"We were sweating there a little bit," state Rep. Sam Low, on the House Transportation Committee, said of behind-the-scenes work. The House Transportation Committee gave full funding, and area legislators lobbied hard to convince colleagues to do the same.
A compromise arrived. Legislators scheduled $15 million for design in the 2023-2025 budget and $16 million for design in the 2025-2027 budget.
Designers want 522 to run fluidly, with no stoplight at Paradise Lake Road/Maltby Road and four lanes for the whole stretch from Maltby to Echo Lake to fill out the section that narrows to two. The highway would have a bridge flying over Paradise Lake Road, and on- and off-ramps would replace where the roads meet.
There's no construction funding yet to build this vision.
Washington State Department of Transportation graphic
The proposed revisions at Paradise Lake Road and Maltby Road turns today’s intersection into a grade-separated interchange and adds roundabouts at some places.
In recent months, the state Department of Transportation has changed its plans for design milestones. It's going to get to a 100% design to prepare for a contractor by 2027, Transportation spokeswoman Krista Carlson said. It will use a design-bid-build process where bidding contractors would have a final design drawing to go build
Getting the design down often fast-tracks projects to be considered for construction funding.
"Completing the design, engineering, and property acquisition over the next four years should put us in a strong position to seek the full construction funding at the next major opportunity," state Sen. Brad Hawkins said in a statement. He said he won't stop working on this until it's complete.
It could be a major lift: The estimated construction cost from years back was $180 million. Escalating costs now pencil it out to potentially $270 million.
Finishing 522 is what local leaders have strived for over a decade.
Lobbying efforts to grab attention for 522 have helped rearrange Transportation budgets to get money flowing to the project. Last year, a supplemental budget put $10 million toward designing 522.
The urgency is now, the lobby effort emphasizes.
More than 26,000 cars a day go through this three-mile highway section.
Traffic backups stretch during rush hours today, delaying school buses and commuters to King County alike. It also affects Duvall as drivers divert to state Route 203 to skirt past state Route 522.
2020 Census data shows more than one-third of Monroe's employed workforce commuted to jobs in King County. (About 12% of Monroe's working residents work in Monroe.)
The total state Transportation budget legislators approved is nearly $13.5 billion for 2023-25.
522's funding survived a slate of vetoes Inslee issued May 16 when signing off on the Transportation budget.
One item Inslee vetoed was a proposal to study a pay-per-mile fee to replace the state gas tax. This "pre-supposes a per-mile fee program will be adopted despite the need to consider broader options for alternative funding sources for transportation," Inslee wrote in his veto message.
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