Special to The Seattle Times by Carolyn Eslick:
Asking a large urban center like Seattle to care about the traffic problems of their rural neighbors seems like a stretch. But they really should. In Washington state, U.S. Highway 2 is the northernmost, all-season highway traveling into the Cascade Mountains — taking visitors, many coming from the Seattle area, to a wide variety of hiking, fishing, skiing and other family-friendly recreational areas. It begins in Everett, at Interstate 5 and State Route 529, going east through Stevens Pass.
Seattle’s rural neighbors have long endured stop-and-go traffic on long segments of the two-lane highway, especially over weekends and holidays. For some context, Sultan has less than 6,000 residents, Gold Bar 2,000, and Index fewer than 200. And yet, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), nearly 40,000 vehicles drive on U.S. Highway 2 daily.
Volume has only increased since the start of the pandemic, as more people look for in-state travel destinations. Bumper-to-bumper traffic along U.S. Highway 2 causes visiting drivers to pull off into towns and cities looking for alternate routes — clogging side streets and other county roads. Weekends and holidays are notoriously bad, as residents become trapped in their homes because heavy traffic restricts their ability to commute to work, shop and do child-related activities.