More than 100 interested citizens gathered in the Edmonds Library Plaza Room Wednesday evening for the first of four scheduled open house meetings on how to address improving access to a waterfront cut off by an increasingly busy rail line.
Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling kicked off the meeting by pointing out that the current 35-40 trains per day passing through Edmonds are projected to increase to more 100 by 2030, cutting off access to the waterfront for more than four hours each day. Describing this as “unacceptable,” Earling went on to praise the people and organizations who have come together to address this problem, including Sound Transit, BNSF and most importantly the citizens who have volunteered to serve on the Waterfront Access Task Group.
“These citizens have a very important job to do, and their work will significantly define the future of Edmonds,” he said. “I’m keeping at arms length from their work, because I believe the citizens of Edmonds will be best served by letting this group focus on the task at hand without outside interruption.”
After project team introductions by Public Works Director Phil Williams, Rick Schaefer of Tetra Tech, the consultant hired to conduct the study, gave a short rundown of the project scope, major goals and milestones.
Beginning with a summary of the problem, Schaefer described a situation all too familiar to Edmonds citizens: A vibrant waterfront district with parks, restaurants, one of the premier dive parks on the west coast, a major ferry terminal, a busy senior center, a large active marina, and arguably the best off-leash dog park in the region — all increasingly cut off from the rest of the community by growing rail and train traffic.
Listing the issues to be addressed, Schaefer included interruption of the ferry system, disruption of the several bus routes that cross the tracks, and inconvenience to citizens and visitors who want to enjoy Edmonds’ waterfront. But he pointedly stressed that the highest priority is to ensure reliable access for emergency responders.
He then detailed the various project milestones, pointing out key opportunities for citizen involvement and input, including three additional public meetings/open houses and a final public hearing before the City Council. He stressed that at this stage “nothing is off the table” and that the project is in an idea-gathering mode. Only after sufficient baseline information is collected to provide a complete understanding of existing conditions will the project move into identifying, screening and evaluating alternatives. This will lead to a recommended alternative presented to City Council in the third quarter of 2016.
The group then broke out into small facilitated discussion groups, where participants listed the criteria they feel are most important for the study to address, and identified potential problems that could arise from particular alternatives (e.g., business impacts, environmental effects, impacts on quality of life in Edmonds, aesthetics, cost). Afterward, each group chose a spokesperson to report its findings back to all participants. Common concerns included ensuring emergency access, improving parking on the waterfront, maintaining views, controlling flooding and train horn noise.
These findings will be used by the consultant to help identify potential alternative approaches to be presented at the next public meeting tentatively scheduled for February 2016.
To ensure the maximum opportunity for public comment and involvement, the project team has set up an “online open house” where all project information can be viewed and comments can be submitted. The team stressed that this input is critical to ensuring that the alternatives they develop will be responsive to the needs of the community, and urge all citizens to visit the online open house and leave their input. Access the online open house at edmondswaterfrontaccess.org.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel
Watch complete video of the Waterfront Access Study Open House: