I have a fondness for the idea of an urban village. I imagine picking up groceries at a series of little specialty shops, pleasantly conversing with each shopkeeper, then walking home to prepare a romantic dinner. It would be like living in Paris. When I first heard about efforts to change Westgate into an urban village, that’s what I pictured. But having looked at what’s planned, I just don’t see that becoming reality.
I once regularly commuted by bicycle from Edmonds to Seattle, so I am not timid when it comes to confronting traffic. But crossing Highway 104 at Westgate on foot scares me. You have fast traffic moving through five lanes, with a lot of traffic turning left or right. The problem is compounded by people racing to catch a ferry before it leaves. To them, a yellow traffic light means speed up. Other than Highway 99, this may be the least pedestrian-friendly place in Edmonds.
Ferry traffic in increasing. This problem is going to get worse. I would imagine that WSDOT is going to be reluctant to approve any measures to slow traffic down and make it safe for pedestrians. Their priority is moving traffic.
Imagine that 5th Ave through downtown Edmonds was a 5 lane road with a speed limit of 40 MPH. Do you think that would affect the walkability of downtown? Of course it would. You can see a little of this effect today between the downtown core and the waterfront. Third Avenue, Highway 104, and the railroad discourage most pedestrians from walking between these areas. It’s not a pleasant experience – I’ve done it hundreds of times.
I admire and respect the work that the council, city staff, and citizen volunteers put into planning for the Westgate area. But I was shocked to learn that no traffic or parking study has been done, and we don’t have details about the precise boundaries of the existing right-of-ways. I have no background or expertise in urban planning, but this seems like critical input into any plan.
People coming to Westgate to shop are going to almost always arrive by car. Walking there is unpleasant at best. There is limited bus service on weekdays, and none whatsoever on weekends. The proposed plan for Westgate requires less parking per square foot of commercial space than we have now. Is that realistic?
Before any plan moves forward, we should do a traffic study (and a parking study). It should measure traffic at all times of the day. It should include weekends and days when the ferry is especially busy. It should measure not just average speeds, but measure the frequency of traffic exceeding 50 MPH. The speed measuring equipment should be installed inconspicuously so that it doesn’t cause traffic to slow down.
I would like to see a long range plan for development at Westgate move forward, but not until we have a solid foundation of facts to evaluate such a plan.
About me: I have lived in Edmonds for 27 years. I live in the Westgate neighborhood, about a mile from the commercial area. I frequently shop at many of the Westgate businesses and love walking to downtown Edmonds.