Updated Nov. 8 to include additional information, clarification from a city press release:
Thirteen months after its first meeting, the 10-member advisory task force appointed by Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling to study alternatives for at-grade railroad crossings at Dayton and Main Streets made its official recommendations to the Edmonds City Council Monday night.
Using public input obtained during a series of four open houses, as well as online surveys, the task force narrowed a list of 51 possible alternatives to 11. After further review, the group on Monday recommended three types of alternatives, ranging from a least-cost, smallest project to a most-cost, largest project, said Patrick Doherty, the city’s Director of Economic Development and Community Services.
Each of them is aimed at providing better access to and from the waterfront with increasing train traffic. Because each of those options will require significant capital dollars that will take time to acquire, the group also identified four “immediate recommendations” — from crosswalk improvements to an emergency evacuation plan –that could be implemented to address safety concerns.
“The task force considered every conceivable way to get across those tracks,” said Edmonds City Councilmember Mike Nelson, who co-chaired the group along with Edmonds Port Commissioner Jim Orvis. “Over, under and practically through it. Every foot was looked at along the waterfront for a possible crossing point. We look at the structural design challenges, the amount of land we had to work with, environmental challenges…as well as community challenges.”
With the goal of mitigating the expected growth in train, ferry and “all modes of local traffic,” the city council has been asked to decide which of three projects — each in a different cost range — to pursue, Doherty said. They include:
The least-cost option: A midblock pedestrian overpass located near the Amtrak/Sounder train station and the Edmonds Senior Center. Consultant Rick Schaefer noted that this option would provide safe pedestrian access to both sides of the railroad tracks, and would best serve commuters, who would be the primary users for making rail, bus and ferry connections. This option is estimated to cost $6 million. While this project would provide access during train blockages for pedestrians and emergency personnel, no emergency vehicle access would be possible, and it also would not help ferry terminal access. In addition, given that Sound Transit — which operates commuter rail on the tracks — would require a similar structure in the future once a second rail track is built by the BNSF railroad, the task force believes this alternative may be best left for Sound Transit to implement.
The middle-cost option: Emergency vehicle access to the waterfront through an emergency access overpass at Edmonds Street and Sunset Avenue. The task force identified this, dubbed as the Edmonds Waterfront Street Connector, as their preferred alternative. The overpass, which is easily accessible from Edmonds police and fire stations, would provides immediate access to respond to waterfront emergencies. The ramp would also provide a full-time pedestrian and bicycle connection from Sunset Avenue to Brackett’s Landing Park and the waterfront trail system, which would enhance walkability of the waterfront. When there is an emergency shutdown of either rail crossing, the ramp could be used to offload vehicles from the ferry. Cost is estimated to be $24 million.
The highest-cost option: Edmonds Crossing. Under its longer-term recommendation, the task force concluded in its report that grade separation for vehicles accessing ferries is necessary to resolve the growing conflicts between rail traffic and vehicles loading and offloading the ferries. As a result, it recommended that the city continue to support the eventual implementation of the Edmonds Crossing project. That state-proposed project, involving relocation of Edmonds ferry operations to a new terminal located at the current Unocal property, is currently on hold due to lack of state funding, but may be reintroduced at some point in the future. If such a terminal relocation occurs, the task force also recommended that the project incorporate an emergency vehicle access point at the waterfront’s south end.
Earling said he fully supports the task force preferred alternative recommendation, calling it “the most prudent, financially feasible and most beneficial solution to the growing safety and emergency-access issues associated with growing train volumes through Edmonds.” He also urged the city council to move quickly to approve the preferred concept. The city has an opportunity to apply for a federal grant, due in December, and will also need to start talking with both federal and state legislators about possible funding opportunities, he said.
Citizens will have an opportunity to offer their feedback on the alternatives at the Tuesday, Nov. 15 council meeting.
You can view the complete task force report here.
In other action, the council:
– Unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Councilmember Nelson to temporarily suspend certain portions of the city’s newly passed sign code. The suspension, which will last for 120 days, is designed to give city staff time to work with downtown businesses to address their concerns about the new code passed by the council Aug. 2, which implements requirements on size and location. City Development Director Shane Hope said she welcomes an opportunity to meet with businesses “to deal with some of the specific issues that have come up.”
– Began its deliberations regarding the mayor’s proposed 2017 budget. While public comment was scheduled on the topic, no citizens offered testimony. However, councilmembers spent a fair amount of time discussing the best ways to go about adding their own priorities into the budget. It was agreed to further explore the matter during the next few council meetings. The budget must be approved by the end of 2016.
– Heard the 2016 annual report from the city’s public defender.
– Referred to next week’s council consent calendar approval of a revised interlocal agreement with Olympic View Water and Sewer District to fund minor utility relocations for the Madrona Elementary Walkway Project and a right-of-way dedication for the Select Homes short plat at 8721 218th St. S.W.
— By Teresa Wippel