By WENDY GIROUX
A flock of geese flew overhead during a ceremony to officially recognize the completion of a $96 million project on State Route 202, as if to emphasize the 16-acre wetland included in the package.
“This project is the result of the voters in ’05 saying ‘Yes, we do want to have these kinds of projects done,'” Gov. Chris Gregoire said, referring to the gas tax that voters approved.
Among other things, the four-year project:
• Widened nearly three miles of SR 202 between SR 520 and Sahalee Way
• Built a flyover ramp connecting westbound SR 202 to westbound SR 520
• Added four noise walls, three miles of bike lanes, three miles of pedestrian sidewalks
• Realigned intersections
• Improved lighting and coordinated signals
• Built one of the largest wetlands in Washington state
• Made flood prevention improvements.
“This widening project has reduced the commute from 45 minutes, to five-10 minutes,” Gregoire said. “That is an amazing success story for people who have to do this every day.”
She emphasized the difference between the wetland area before and after the project.
“Four years ago, this area here was literally filled with rusting vehicles, couches, assorted trash. And now, it’s lush, it’s vibrant. It’s 13 acres of preservation for our fish and wildlife habitat,” Gregoire said.
Asked after the ceremony about statements made by her Republican opponent, Dino Rossi, about relieving transportation woes while not increasing taxes, Gregoire said Rossi is making a lot of promises.
“If I listen to him, it reminds me that Santa Claus visits my house only once a year. Apparently Santa Claus lives at his house. This is about results,” Gregoire said.
Three citizens who commute on the newly improved roadway were invited to cut the ribbon, and Fall City resident Johnna Jones shared her experiences.
“This project has amazed me,” Jones said. “My commute has been cut by at least 30 minutes every day, which makes me much happier when I get to my destination at work.”
The flyover ramp was finished in February, and all construction was officially complete in August — one year ahead of schedule.
State Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, Redmond Mayor John Marchione and Sammamish Mayor Lee Fellinge each shared their thanks and said they are pleased with the outcome.
“Projects like these help move us forward and improve our quality of life,” Marchione said.
Fellinge agreed, and emphasized that he hopes officials from local and state agencies continue to work closely on upcoming projects.
“This has been such a huge relief,” he said. “I have heard so many comments about advantages of not having to waste time in traffic.”
Redmond Council President Nancy McCormick also attended the celebration, and noted jokingly that she was on a “Finish 520” task force when she joined the council in 1986.
“It’s a project that we wished and hoped for for many years, and now the wishing and hoping is over,” McCormick said.
In a few weeks, the Department of Transportation plans will break ground on the plan’s next phase: widening SR 520 from West Lake Sammamish Parkway to SR 202, by adding HOV lanes and extending onramps. The work is expected to improve the evening commute.
“That (520 project) represents about a four-mile segment, and that project is about a $91 million investment,” Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond said. “This corridor has been plagued for many years with expanding growth. It was time to update this road.”
For more information about the 202 improvements, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR202/SR520_Sahalee/. Or, for additional facts about the coming project on State Route 520, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR520/WLakeSamPk_SR202/.