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Saturday, November 06, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Report: I-5 interchange, train would benefit NASCAR track

By Emily Heffter
Times Snohomish County Bureau

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A new Interstate 5 interchange and a new Sound Transit train platform would help get 75,000 fans to and from races at a proposed NASCAR track near Marysville, according to a consultants' report released yesterday.

The Everett consultants recommended about $68 million in road improvements they say would be needed with or without a NASCAR track. Of that, they say $8 million would fund projects exclusively for the track, such as the initial stages of a new I-5 interchange and the train platform. All that is in addition to $278 million in improvements already planned and funded for the area.

The report, generated for Marysville by Perteet, an engineering and consulting firm, contains the first detailed estimates of how much taxpayers could spend on transportation improvements for the proposed racetrack.

Marysville, Snohomish County and Daytona Beach, Fla.-based racetrack developer International Speedway have already proposed that the state chip in between $200 million and $250 million for the $300 million racetrack. In addition, the state will be asked to fund transportation improvements.

A financing package will be up to the Legislature.

"We know that transportation is going to be our biggest issue," said Marysville Chief Administrative Officer Mary Swenson. "We've known that all along."

The city of Marysville ordered the $30,000 study in June, before the track developer selected about 850 acres between Marysville and Arlington for a NASCAR track.

Those who live near the proposed track site say traffic is one of their biggest concerns. Traffic already is congested in the fast-growing area in unincorporated Snohomish County.

Perteet engineers said the track would benefit from many of the transportation improvements already slated for the area. Preliminary work on the I-5 interchange at Highway 531, for example, is already under way.

Some of the planned transportation projects would have to be sped up so they would be ready for the planned 2009 track opening, the consultants said. Along with the new interchange and train platform, they recommended widening several local roads and rebuilding two other I-5 interchanges — at 116th Street Northeast and at Highway 531.

State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, said she was surprised track proponents asked for so little. Haugen is a vocal opponent of the track and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Transportation Committee. She said the low figure is not realistic.
 
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"To me, this is a classic example of something that would be constructed that would cause huge, huge transportation problems," she said. "This is just a Band-Aid, and when does it start hemorrhaging?"

The consultants recommended the state and city look for ways to use park-and-ride lots and other parking in Monroe, Everett and Lake Stevens to ease traffic "choke-points" north of the Snohomish River.

They also suggested the city make a deal with the Tulalip Tribes to use some of their parking, ensuring that race fans get a chance to see the Tulalip Casino, which is near the proposed track.

"We're looking for things that say, 'we're going to give you a park-and-ride experience that you would want to have,' " said Michael Stringam, Perteet's director of transportation planning.

In addition, Stringam expects local police to route traffic in one direction two or three times a year when the speedway would be filled to capacity. At the Kansas Speedway, which the consultants visited outside of Kansas City, police changed the traffic direction on freeway lanes as well as local roads.

By using those methods and making improvements, Stringam said, heavy, race-weekend traffic could be cleared out in 2½ hours.

Emily Heffter: 425-783-0624 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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