Transportation bill that includes Edmonds rail crossings alternatives analysis headed for governor’s desk

Beachgoers explore during low tide as a BNSF train passes by the Edmonds waterfront earlier this year. (Photo by Ken Sjodin)
Beachgoers explore during low tide as a BNSF train passes by the Edmonds waterfront earlier this year. (Photo by Ken Sjodin)

The Washington State Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a 2015-17 transportation budget that includes $500,000 for an analysis of alternatives for at-grade rail crossings along the Edmonds waterfront.

The transportation budget, passed on the final day of the special legislative session, already passed the House on Wednesday, House Bill 1299 now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

Through its delegation in Olympia, the City of Edmonds requested state funding for the alternatives analysis. The City Council voted in December to include in the 2015 city budget a $100,000 local match from the city for the analysis work. The Port of Edmonds also chipped in $25,000 for the work.

The study will determine the best approach to resolving conflicts with at-grade railroad crossings in downtown Edmonds, the City of Edmonds said in an announcement Thursday. The two crossings, at Dayton and Main Streets, are currently blocked by 35-40 trains each day along the city’s waterfront. Expected growth in train traffic to more than 100 trains per day by 2030 will make the following conflicts significantly worse, including:

– Blocked access for public safety services (police, fire, EMS) to the waterfront.
– Substantial delays in vehicle loading/unloading at the State Ferry Terminal.
– Interruption of Community Transit bus service.
– Blocked access to commercial and industrial businesses, residences and services.
– Blocked access to city shoreline parks, the Port of Edmonds Marina, an underwater dive park, the Edmonds Senior Center, and several restaurants.

“This funding will allow us to consider a different future with regard to our at-grade crossings,” Mayor Dave Earling said. “We need to be proactive in looking for solutions to these problems. The current situation is difficult enough but will be intolerable in the near future if we don’t start planning now.”

The alternatives analysis, which will include extensive public outreach, will screen a variety of potential grade separation and other projects looking for an appropriate balance between cost and efficiency in eliminating train conflicts, the city announcement said. Once the study is complete, the city will be in position to proceed directly to seek design development, detailed design and construction funding.

“I want to thank the Legislature for their support,” Earling said. “I would especially like to thank State Sen. Marko Liias and Reps. Strom Peterson and Lilian Ortiz-Self for their hard work in convincing both houses of the Legislature of the importance of this work.

“Additionally, I want to recognize the leadership exhibited by the House Transportation Committee Chair, Rep.Judy Clibborn and the Senate Transportation Committee Chair, Sen. Curtis King, whose leadership on transportation issues like this one during a very long session has been key to the progress achieved so far.”

The transportation budget is the first and only budget to pass during either session so far in 2015. Still under negotiation are the state’s operating and capital budgets.

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