Transportation

A Bypass Thirty Years in the Making

Transportation has a huge impact on urban planning and economic development in our region. It is never more evident than in the City of Snohomish.  In the early 1950’s a bypass was conceived to re-route Highway 2 out of downtown Snohomish to relieve growing congestion. Businesses feared less traffic would mean less business. As traffic tripled, vehicular and pedestrian access to downtown became increasingly challenging.

Downtown Snohomish in 1938. Photo courtesy of Louis Stanton.

Downtown Snohomish in 1938. Photo courtesy of Louis Stanton.

The Elusive Highway 2 Bypass / The 30-Year Highway

By 1967 when the state announced it was studying routes, most were ready to take the chance that the bypass would actually be good for business and preserve the small town’s character. The Chamber of Commerce favored one closer to town while the Women’s Citizen Committee advocated for a remote route to preserve Ferguson Park and reduce city noise. This preferred route cuts through Monroe, Washington and over the North Cascades into the Wenatchee Valley. The plan was approved in 1970-71 but construction was not funded until 1977 by way of approval for a 2 cents per gallon gas tax, about $10 per year to the average motorist. Construction started in 1979. The final $30 million price tag for the 2-lane bypass was about twice the four-lane estimates 16 years earlier. 30 years after inception, the “elusive bypass” became a reality when it opened on October 22, 1983.

A highly controversial transportation planning period from 1953 – 1983 lead to the re-routing of Highway 2 out of downtown Snohomish to relieve growing congestion. During the planning stages of the highway, the downtown was designated a national historic district. This decision has helped retain the town’s charm as well as supporting a heritage tourism based economy.

Timeline

1930’s

In 1933 the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act was enacted to help restore financial stability to an over developed railroad system. A federal coordinator was appointed to implement cost saving strategies and eliminate duplication of services of the many railroad enterprises operating across the country.

1940’s

WWII created important changes in American life. While resources such as steel for cars and gasoline were rationed for military use, air transportation and aeronautic design grew exponentially for military transportation. The innovation of the aeronautics industry would eventually lead to the air transportation as the preferred method for business and leisure travel as well as manufacturing delivery systems.

1950’s

In 1953 State Highway Commission passed Resolution No. 95, placing SR2 from Everett to Goldbar on the State’s limited access highways master plan.

1960’s

In 1967 the state’s study of the Snohomish-Monroe section was submitted for the highway department’s approval, and a month later public meetings began to discuss alternate routes with local citizens.

1970’s

During the period from 1970 to 1971 design and access plans, from Fobes Hill to Monroe, were approved. Right of way funds were also approved for the state’s 1971-73 biennium. Construction remained unfunded until 1977.

1980’s

In 1983 the Snohomish Bypass opened with a foot-race, and then vehicular traffic on Saturday, October 22nd.

The fun run route had 230 runners and walkers. The route map showing the bypass was featured in the Snohomish County Tribune on October 25, 1983

The fun run route had 230 runners and walkers. The route map showing the bypass was featured in the Snohomish County Tribune on October 25, 1983

What’s in a name?

The confluence of Centennial Trail with the cross streets of Maple and Pine is known by locals as the “Fairgrounds Addition”. The City of Snohomish was once the County seat during the years of 1861 to 1897. As the County Seat, the City of Snohomish was also home to the County Fairgrounds.

The original Snohomish County Fairgrounds are seen here during the annual Holstein judging. Photo courtesy Snohomish Historical Society.

The original Snohomish County Fairgrounds are seen here during the annual Holstein judging. Photo courtesy Snohomish Historical Society.

This site along the trail is known as the “Fairgrounds Addition”, because over the years city planners, as well as railroad officials, studied the site for expansion of the Snohomish County Fairgrounds. Ironically, the County Fairgrounds would eventually be moved to Monroe, located along the infamous Highway 2.

A Northern Pacific Railroad Map overlaid with a Sanborn Insurance Map shows plat plans for the expansion of the County Fairgrounds at the Fairgrounds Addition site. Photo Courtesy Sno-Isle Library System.

A Northern Pacific Railroad Map overlaid with a Sanborn Insurance Map shows plat plans for the expansion of the County Fairgrounds at the Fairgrounds Addition site. Photo Courtesy Sno-Isle Library System.

A transportation icon stays in place for over 80 years.

It’s not just the railroad and highway construction that influences transportation in the City of Snohomish. Bickford Ford is one of the longest running businesses in the City having celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2014.

A family owned business since 1934, Bickford is one of the largest truck dealerships in Washington. Their presence in downtown Snohomish has contributed greatly to the economy both in terms of sales revenue as well as employment.

The original Bickford Ford is shown here in the heart of downtown Snohomish. Photo circa 1934.

The original Bickford Ford is shown here in the heart of downtown Snohomish. Photo circa 1934.