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Published: Saturday, December 17, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Highway 522 ramp opens in Monroe

MONROE -- People headed to Stevens Pass or Leavenworth or anywhere else east of Monroe get a break starting today.
A new flyover ramp is opening that will allow traffic to move directly from Highway 522 onto U.S. 2. Before the ramp opened, all traffic had to stop at a traffic light on U.S. 2, creating backups on 522.
"Hopefully that would be a thing of the past," spokeswoman Bronlea Mishler said. "Every time we give drivers options, it reduces congestion everywhere else."
About 70 percent of the 17,000 vehicles that use 522 head east at Monroe. The new ramp has its own lane, so drivers will not need to merge with oncoming traffic. They will be unable to turn left at N. Kelsey Street, however.
"If the drivers want to go to Stevens Pass, this is the over-ramp they should take," project engineer Janice Fahning said.
The project cost $22.8 million and took a year and half to finish. The ramp is part of the $159.7 million project that is expanding Highway 522 to four lanes on a 4-mile stretch from Monroe to west of the Snohomish River. The project aims to ease congestion and reduce head-on collisions by building a median on the highway. The project's next phase is scheduled to continue next spring when crews blast 300,000 cubic yards of rock to make way for the additional lanes.
Besides building the new ramp, crews also added another lane in each direction on U.S. 2 for a half-mile.
There could be some issues with drivers not aware of the new ramp or the traffic lights may not be properly synchronized, so the Transportation Department plans to have crews monitoring the area.
Monroe Mayor Robert Zimmerman says the ramp is a good start, but hopes that a long-planned bypass for U.S. 2 will eventually become a reality.
"I'm glad the first phase is complete," he said. "It's going to serve as a useful and positive impact to the city,"
Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422;

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