More than 25 interested citizens were on hand to hear a presentation and talk with project staff at Wednesday evening’s open house for the Highway 99 Revitalization/Gateway project.
Held in the Swedish Edmonds hospital auditorium, the open house featured diagrams, maps and a PowerPoint presentation in which staff from the City of Edmonds and consultant SCJ Alliance shared particulars about the goals, schedule and challenges of moving ahead with this piece of the larger Highway 99 Subarea Plan.
“Tonight we’re looking for input from the public, the folks who will actually be using this,” said City Transportation Engineer Bertrand Hauss. “Our goal is to make Highway 99 a safe, walkable place.”
The evening’s open house focused primarily on ideas to make this section of Highway 99 a safer corridor for all modes of transportation. To bring the problem into focus, the project team provided two large maps showing accident frequencies, allowing citizens to see where the “hot spots” are located.
And there are lots of hot spots.
“This stretch of highway experiences about four times as many accidents as similar corridors with comparable traffic volumes, average vehicle speeds, and roadway characteristics,” said Lisa Reid of the SCJ Alliance project staff.
As one might expect, intersections such as 220th Street are particularly problematic, but another area of high accident frequency is on stretches of highway between intersections where the uncontrolled center turn lane allows left turns across traffic coming in the opposite direction.
“It’s very common that a motorist will be waiting in the center turn lane to take a left into a strip mall parking lot, business or side street, and the oncoming car in the left lane will courteously stop to let the motorist turn,” said Reid. “Falsely perceiving all is safe the motorist will proceed, only to be hit by oncoming traffic in the right lane.”
One strategy under consideration to address this is to replace the present left turn free-for-all two-way center turn lane with raised center medians with openings that allow turns only at specific locations.
Other ideas presented included measures such as wider sidewalks in a variety of patterns and textures to enhance walkability, new street lighting, attractive and safer crosswalks, better stormwater management, targeted utility replacements, potential undergrounding of overhead utilities, landscaping, and softscape treatments.
City Public Works Director Phil Williams was on hand to talk about project schedules and funding.
“The Highway 99 Revitalization plan is funded by a grant from the state’s Connecting Washington transportation program,” he explained. “Right now we have an initial $1 million to get started, and expect an additional $9 million in 2022. This will take us through some initial design phases, but it’s only a starter. While it’s hard to give solid figures at this early stage, we’re probably looking at a 6-7 year project that will come in upwards of $100 million.”
For more on the materials presented at the open house, see the PowerPoint presentation here. Additional information regarding the project can be found at www.edmondscorridor99.org or by contacting Bertrand Hauss, transportation engineer, at 425-771-0220 or [email protected].
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel