Many council questions about Waterfront Connector project; library supporters sound off

    • Location of Edmonds Street Watefront Connector project.

An update on plans to build a single-lane bridge for emergency access to the Edmonds waterfront when train tracks are blocked generated many questions from Edmonds City councilmembers Tuesday night.

Much of what was presented regarding the project, which aims to connect Sunset Avenue at Edmonds Street to the Brackett’s Landing North parking area, was a repeat of what had been revealed during an open house for the public in late February.  City project manager Ed Sibrel reminded the council of the need for an emergency solution to ensure crews can get over the tracks when they are impassable. From 2010-2015, for example, fire crews responded to 277 emergency 911 calls on the waterfront, with 171 of those requiring basic life support response and 72 advanced life support, plus 14 fires and eight water rescues.

“This is first and foremost a public safety project,” Sibrel said.

The connector would also allow, in some cases, the ability of ferry traffic to unload or load during a blockage.

Sibrel noted that the connector, estimated at $30 million, would be the largest public works project the city has ever undertaken. The city received $6 million in funding from the state Legislature during its recently-concluded session. That follows an additional approximately $2 million received earlier from the state and other sources. With a funding gap of $22 million, the city is now seeking grants for the remainder.

Rick Schaefer of project consultant Tetra Tech unveiled drawings of six alternate approaches involving a range of concepts, materials and engineering solution, with the goal of gaining citizen feedback on those designs both during in-person meetings and online. The hope is to have a final recommendation on a design this summer, he said.

Councilmembers Kristiana Johnson and Diane Buckshnis asked whether planning a bridge that accommodates both emergency vehicles and pedestrians was necessary. Buckshnis questioned whether the idea goes beyond the original intent of the project, which was to get pedestrians across the tracks. Both councilmembers said they would like to see a cost breakdown between a pedestrian-only bridge and one that also accommodates emergency vehicles.

Buckshnis noted that in the public comments received so far, “there are a lot of people who are not in support of this. I was not in support of this because I felt we could do something cheaper on the other side rather than $30 million.” Buckshnis also suggested that the city should be asking for financial assistance from both BNSF Railroad and the Washington State Ferries, “because we will be helping them.”

Public Works Director Phil Williams said there is an expectation that BNSF will participate in funding, but it’s unclear exactly how much that will be. As for the ferry system, the city just received $6 million from the state and it’s certain that part of that was recognition that the project would benefit the ferry system, Williams added.

Councilmember Dave Teitzel asked if the bridge would be able to accommodate pedestrians, including those in wheelchairs, if a fire truck were dispatched. Schaefer said the project would include installation of some pedestrian landings as well as advanced warning of pending aid vehicles before pedestrians get on the bridge.

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and others also brought up other scenarios related to logistics of bridge use and conflicts, and Councilmember Neil Tibbott suggested that a policy eventually be developed to address those issues.

Fraley-Monillas also asked that the council schedule a public hearing prior to any decisions being made on the final bridge design

In another point of concern, both Buckshnis and Johnson expressed surprise following a statement by Williams that the bridge connector would also be available for 24/7 emergency vehicle use even if there wasn’t a train blockage.

“This is the first time I’ve ever heard that,” Johnson said. “The expectation that this is a 24/7 lights-and-siren access for the other side of the road may not be compatible with community values.”

“It was never the city council’s intention that this be full-time emergency access,” Johnson said. All the project expectations need to be written down so that staff, consultants and the city are clear in their intent, to avoid bumps down the road, she added.

“We were never told it was going to be 24/7 emergency vehicles,” Buckshnis added. “Those poor people on Sunset and 2nd Avenue and all those people who have had to put up with what has gone on recently. We should get things more detailed and planned out so the council is made aware of things like this rather than be surprised like tonight.”

Councilmember Tom Mesaros said it would be helpful to have someone from South Snohomish Fire & Rescue come to a council meeting to discuss their emergency process and how it might work with the new bridge.

In other action Tuesday night, the council spent close to an hour listening to public comments from citizens on two topics: the importance of supporting the upcoming Sno-Isle Libraries levy and support for a future ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery in Edmonds.

Friends of the Edmonds Library President Luke Distelhorst speaking at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Starting off the comment period was Luke Distelhorst, president of the Friends of the Edmonds Library, who expressed disappointment in recent comments by city officials who have been “spreading confusion in the minds of Edmonds voters” regarding the library levy.”

Distelhorst was referring to questions raised by City Councilmember Dave Teitzel and City Finance Director Scott James regarding how much Edmonds taxpayers contribute compared to other cities in the Sno-Isle system — due to higher home valuations — and how much the library system reinvests in the Edmonds Library.

Distelhorst started out by saying that Sno-Isle, which provides library services in 23 cities in Snohomish and Island counties, is a system that permits use and sharing of materials among all member libraries. He went on to describe how libraries support people from all walks of life and in all financial circumstances. Noting that the library levy has been endorsed by several other local mayors and Snohomish County Councilmembers, along with Congressman Rick Larsen, Distelhorst said he found the silence of city officials on the issue “troubling” and asked them to publicly express their support.

Following Distelhorst was commentary from Edmonds resident Tom Mayer, who said that “the public library is a great example of promoting the public welfare,” as stated in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

“If my tax dollars are helping children in Darrington to learn to love books and reading at their library’s preschool story hours, then I’m all for it,” he said.

Several commenters also expressed support for another concept that is likely to come before the council soon: a potential ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery in Edmonds being spearheaded by Councilmember Teitzel. Later in the meeting, Councilmember Buckshnis, who is also working on the project, said the ban would be phased in over a long period, to give those affected plenty of time to comply with it.

The council also:

— Approved a measure aimed at giving nonprofit groups more flexibility when removing vegetation from critical areas for the purpose of habitat restoration.

— Received an annual report from the Edmonds Cemetery Board.

— Heard a presentation regarding a feasibility analysis for future redevelopment in the Five Corners area. The council directed staff to look into this idea further, although it was recognized that it will be several months before work can begin.

— By Teresa Wippel

5 Replies to “Many council questions about Waterfront Connector project; library supporters sound off”

  1. I was just wondering, is there not more pressing issues for consideration, by Edmonds City Council, than whether, or not, we need a ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery in Edmonds?

    And, are not the items in question, recyclable?

    The whole idea of whether, or not, we need a ban, seems a bit trivial at best.


  2. If the objective of the Connector Project is to save lives in a life threatening emergency situation, might resources be better spent on having quality assessment re the need for dispatching services, and then provide helicopter rescue if needed, vs building the Connector bridge? Seems odd that now it’s being stated that the bridge could be used for non life threatening emergencies and to load and unload the ferry if there was a train blocking the tracks. This sounds like we’re being asked to approve funding for an expensive project with objectives other than was intended, and at the detrimemt of neighborhoods on and near Sunset.


  3. When one hears (quite some time ago) that there is a new condo or apartment building going in that is at the beginning of the path (now referred to as “corridor” like when Sunset was being taken apart….”corridor to the beach”) for this bridge (3rd & Edmonds) and follows the path,and will be named Beach Walk Apartment (or something along those lines, privste) one has to wonder (once again) what this really IS all about…………..Emergency management conditions (which this is supposed to be for!!) are usually (check with any hospital) laid out and directed from the get go by emergency management. Professionals……..Now, the outrageous outlay has also turned into evidently 30 million ……up a million from 29 million………this is a simple “emergency management” item…….and we are going to spend millions and millions for a bridge that sounds like other pie in the sky ideas…….We never really know what the real background is for projects. The people of Edmonds did not just fall off the turnip truck………Again, we had a Parametrix (gave me his card) surveyor on our street (a third of the way up 2nd & Edmonds) measuring (“right of way”, “30 feet on each side from center of street”) and then at the last meeting, I was told by a head at Parametrix at the other meeting, “that was not us”…..which clearly was a lie. ……..Things here (in the millions) never turn out to be what they are supposed to be or there is always some type of flim flam man type of dealings….that’s always what it feels like……flim flam ……..Perhaps it is time for new and fresh ideas and people at the to in our city and HONESTY (what a concept). I don’t like being blatantly lied to regarding matters like this in the MILLIONS! The people have a right to know what people running our government are really doing behind closed doors. They work for us, not the other way around. We need to not have people at top that have been let go by other municipalities in other areas…..We need HONESTY…….Our city is not a gig for personal gain of some


  4. The helipcopter idea is a good one…..We were on the other side of the tracks when the train had stopped and a pregnant woman needed to be on the other side……There was no problem in regards to this at all…….the emergency people just pulled up to the other side, and brought her through and across the tracks………the rest of the people just appeared to be talking and enjoying a nice small extended visit to the beach and business there.


  5. BNSF needs to participate. Just because railroad barons grabbed these right-of-ways 100+ years ago should not give them the right to counter the public good and right to common property. Boeing has the same problem with BNSF contracts – they do what-ever they want based on ancient (in my eyes) contracts.

    $30 million is outrageous. Go back to the sunken rail corridor and BNSF should pay.


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