By Tom Corrigan
“The significance is huge,” said University of Washington, Bothell Chancellor Kenyon Chan.
On Sept. 18, WSDOT and the UW-Bothell were scheduled to hold a ribbon cutting for the new Interstate 405/State Route 522 ramp leading to the joint campus of the university and Cascadia Community College. The ramp was to open to traffic a week later.
With the arrival of the ramp, for the first time, the campus has a second entrance.
“It will allow the UW-Bothell to grow as it should,” Chan said.
Focusing his comments more on the traffic implications of the new ramp, Bothell Transportation Manager Seyed Safavian said the ramp should have a major effect on his city’s streets.
Prior to construction of the ramp, all traffic headed to the campus was funneled through the entrance off Beardslee Boulevard in Bothell.
While the schools were limited to one entrance, their student populations also were limited due to an agreement with the city of Bothell.
Under that agreement, UW-Bothell had to at least secure funding for the ramp before the combined enrollment at the university and Cascadia could exceed a combined 3,000. Chan noted UW-Bothell’s student population alone should reach 2,300 this year.
State officials have set the price tag for the ramp at $52.3 million. Chan feels that in the long run, taking into account the economic contributions of two thriving schools and their graduates, the ramp will more than pay for itself.
“It’s a good investment,” he said. “It’s interesting that a transportation project was an investment in the future of students.”
Ultimately, Chan envisions the UW-Bothell growing to between 6,000 to 7,000 students. The university has been expanding at a pace of about 200 to 300 students a year. However, with the ramp, and just as importantly, with added academic programs, Chan feels future growth in student population could happen more rapidly.
In terms of physical growth, UW-Bothell added its first campus housing this year and has plans for more. UW-Bothell Vice-Chancellor Marilyn Cox said the school recently received a $5 million grant to begin design of a new science and academic building. Further, with completion of the ramp, UW-Bothell officials plan a major updating of their master plan. A student activities center could be a primary focus of that plan, according to Cox.
Along with school officials, Safavian said he expects the new 405/522 entrance will handle about 80 percent of the traffic headed to the campus.
“I expect that this will remove substantial pressure off Beardslee,” Safavian said.
UW-Bothell officials said about 25 percent of the school’s population comes from Snohomish County and the ramp is an obvious benefit to those students.
But Safavian added direct access from 522 also helps campus traffic heading into Bothell from points west. Prior to the opening of the ramp, that traffic was forced to cut through downtown Bothell, or worse in Safavian’s opinion, make their way to Beardslee using Bothell side streets.
“One complaint we constantly get is that the traffic going to the campus uses local streets,” Safavian said.
With the ramp in place, traffic should be able to simply stay on the city’s state routes, if nothing else, easing congestion in downtown Bothell.
As WSDOT officials have been quick to emphasize, the ramp was completed eight months ahead of schedule.
“We were very impressed by the magnitude of the project,” Chan said.
He expects the ramp and an expanded UW-Bothell campus will tie in well with Bothell’s well-advertised plans to revamp and grow its downtown.
The ambitious plan includes a large-scale mixed use development and a major realignment of Main Street and State Route’s 527 and 522. Chan envisions the university and the city coming together with what he called a “town and gown” development.
“Bothell has a wonderful urban renewal plan… We will connect to that,” he added.
Tom Corrigan is a writer for the Bothell Reporter. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.