Region Of Boom | KUOW News and Information

Region Of Boom

Region of Boom is a new series on KUOW.

Each of the stories below will begin with a place on a map, a place being reshaped by the booming forces affecting our region.

By examining those places and talking to the people we meet there, we’ll discover together what we’re giving up for growth – and what we’re getting in return.

Take a look at where development is happening now and make sure to tell us what is going on in your own neighborhood.

Follow the ongoing discussion at #regionofboom

This project is edited by Carol Smith. 

2017 is the year the record books will show there are 4 million people living here. But we don't need to wait for the official count: Person Four Million is thought to be among us right now.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

In case you hadn't noticed, our region has been growing fast. 

By this June, a major milestone will be official: The Puget Sound region’s population will be more than 4 million people. 

KUOW’s Region of Boom team is playing welcoming committee to the new guy, whoever that may be.


Drivers wait to cross Mercer Street
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Traffic engineers have a nickname for the years 2019 to 2021, when a slew of new megaprojects will get underway in downtown Seattle around the same time. They call it “The Period of Maximum Constraint.” Translated into plainspeak, it means during those three years, we’ll be up the creek in a leaky canoe without a paddle.


Inside the Tulalip Casino near Marysville
Flickr Photo/simone.brunozzi (CC BY-SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/54xrxm

Growth is happening in many industries across the region. In Marysville for example the Tulalip Casino is now the center of shopping and housing developments.

It's part of the reason Marysville is the fastest-growing big city in Western Washington. But the role of tribal casinos is larger than that.

Relics collected or created by William Shelton, stored at the Hibulb Cultural Center
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols/Posey Gruener

Wayne Williams struggles to tell the story, because of his health. He speaks in bursts, between coughing fits and gulps of orange juice. 


Yes, there was operatic singing here once. Marysville bought the city's historic Opera House from a private owner. Now it's a place for jazz nights, craft classes, weddings and parties.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Seattle’s growth is transforming the cities at its edges. Residents in these growing bedroom communities want things to do when they’re home.

Marysville was just 9,000 people 30 years ago. Now’s it’s over 60,000, and the fastest-growing big city in the Western Washington. It also has a broken-up downtown and a dead industrial waterfront. 

Developments are popping up all over Marysville.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Marysville is the fastest growing big city in Western Washington.

In part that’s due to people leaving the Seattle housing market to find more affordable housing in a place a commutable distance away.


Elizabeth Mehlbrech lives in Marysville, where she finds the rent for new apartments more affordable than other places closer to Seattle. Mehlbrech manages Fitness Evolution, near The Lodge Apartments, where she also lives.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The farther people flee from the major metro areas, the cheaper the housing. But there’s only so far they can run, because there’s an imaginary wall that stops development from sprawling all over the landscape, a wall that protects the less developed green places that make the region beautiful. 

It’s called the urban growth boundary. Beyond it, developers face more restrictions. 

Just inside the boundary, Marysville, Washington, is growing fast as existing rents trend higher and higher. For those who can't afford it, there's nowhere left to go.


Trains running through Marysville can be up six minutes long, which doesn't sound like a lot unless you are constantly getting stuck in their traffic backup.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Donald Wilson should be eating breakfast with his friends at the Tulalip Casino. But Wilson is not eating breakfast. He’s sitting in his car, at a railroad crossing.

It's a situation he faces just about every other day when he's just trying to get from one side of town to the other. "Every time we run into the train," he said, "it’s like, ‘God darn it!’”


Eileen Donoher lives in Snohomish and commutes to the UW Medical Center. She has three small children. 'We can make it work,' she says.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

The Seattle area is getting more expensive. People are finding new ways to adapt, like moving farther away for affordable housing.

But what happens when you still need to work in the city — say, at a hospital in Seattle’s core?

State Representative John Lovick in his car. The former state trooper and Snohomish County Executive offered to drive a reporter around in the early morning to demonstrate a particular form of suffering felt by commuters North of Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Bill Radke speaks with Carolyn Adolph about how — and why — she ended up stuck in traffic with state Representative John Lovick.

Amanda Batterson of Skip's Everett Towing has her doubts about shoulder driving, which would provide congestion relief to commuters living north of Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Washington state plans to open up parts of Interstate 5 to shoulder driving. It begins early summer, when the state will let buses drive part of the shoulder south of Everett.


This heat map produced by real estate company Trulia shows the commute times for Seattle residents. The warmer the color, the longer the commute away from Seattle's core.
Screenshot with permission from Trulia

About 236 people move to the Seattle area every day, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council.

This means more people driving to their jobs, some more than an hour. About 100,000 people commute to the region from Whidbey Island, Aberdeen, Mount Vernon and beyond, according to the regional council.

Housing construction in Marysville.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

In Cora Milholland's lifetime, Marysville has grown from under 2,000 residents to over 60,000.

Since the time he arrived in the 1990s, Loren Cook says the population has tripled.

Six new developments have sprung up on all sides of  Nichole Cleland since 2004, when she moved to a new development in Marysville. 

Ken Cage, president of the Marysville Historical Society, says important parts of Marysville history were bulldozed to make room for this mall.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Marysville is the fastest growing big city in western Washington because there’s space to build housing. But there aren’t many jobs in Marysville. So one in six people end up commuting more than an hour to work.

It's a bedroom community that failed to make itself over in the 1980s. Now it's trying again.


Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson stands in front of the property he wanted opened up to development.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

As you head east to Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90, lush green forests line the freeway. 

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