MARCH 24, 1997
House approves SR-522 safety improvements
One of Washington's deadliest highways recently took a step toward safety. House Bill 1612, approved by a 74-24 vote, authorizes spending $7.9 million from the state motor vehicle fund to construct additional lanes on State Route 522. The project area stretches 13 miles from the intersection of SR-9 near Woodinville to Paradise Lake Road.
Rep. Dave Schmidt, R-Bothell, co-sponsored the bill. During debate on the House floor, he noted that SR-522 has earned a fearsome reputation. He cited its recent appearance on an NBC-TV Dateline segment and also in a September 1995 Reader's Digest article titled "America's Most Dangerous HIghways."
"Isn't it time that we did something about it?" Schmidt asked, noting that there have been 1,780 accidents, 1,359 injuries, and 47 deaths on the highway in the last 15 years. "This is something that we desperately need to take care of."
SR-522 runs from SR-9 to the Snohomish River Bridge in southern Snohomish County. The two-lane highway handles more than 16,000 vehicles in average daily traffic, according to Department of Transportation (DOT) statistics. Traffic is projected to increase to 35,000 vehicles daily by 2010.
The bill passed by the House directs the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop a process for awarding competitively-bid highway projects by the first of next year using a design-build procedure. DOT is not currently authorized to use the design-build procedure. Schmidt said it would allow construction projects to be completed more efficiently.
A design-build contract allows DOT to set design standards, then turn the project over to a private contractor, instead of going through the lengthy process of awarding separate design and construction contracts. HB 1612 establishes SR-522 improvements as a pilot project for the design-build process.
Since HB 1612 requires expenditure of funds from the 1997-99 transportation budget, the bill would be null and void if the money is not appropriated. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.