Letter to the editor: Support Edmonds Waterfront Connector Project

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Editor:

The purpose of this letter is to strongly urge the public and Edmonds City Council to support and maintain efforts towards design completion and implementation of the Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector. This project is currently at concept design status as led by a strong professional team originally authorized by the Council in October, 2015.

This writer was a member of the originally formed Task Force in 2015 which analyzed potential solutions to waterfront access.  Since 1/4/18 I have also been serving member of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the connector project, working closely with the team of Tetra Tech, Parametrix, City staff, and other key stakeholders. Subsequent working sessions of this group have led to conceptual design of two connector bridge/ramp schemes from Edmonds Street, the one preferred being identified as the ‘Land Bridge’ option. This design concept is widely supported by the above-referenced team and the public.

At this point in the process it’s important that we acknowledge two major aspects of this project:

      1. Recognition of the needs and purpose of this connector go back over 5 years to Council’s approval of the original Strategic Action Plan [SAP] on 4/3/13 and again on 4/7/15 with approval of the updated plan.
      2. Edmonds SAP reflects wide-spread public input and support. Primary Strategic Objective #4 [ranked Mod-High] within this approved plan calls us to ”Develop and maintain a transportation and infrastructure to meet current and future demand.” More specifically, related action item #4a.9, Waterfront Connection, calls us to “…establish an emergency and everyday access over the railroad tracks ….. for pedestrians bound for shoreline and waterfront attractions from Harbor Square, Salish Crossing, and Downtown”.                                                                  As stated above, support for the current design concept is universal within the development team and the greater public. This project represents the people’s and first responders’ proposed action towards meeting our 2013 SAP. We and the Council should recognize and continue to support this.
      3. The current concept plan provides for everyday safe track crossing for pedestrians, bikes, and for emergency (only) vehicles—including unlikely potential ferry unloading necessitated by railroad track at-grade crossings blockage by a train. Previous analysis had discarded the concepts of a pedestrian-only track crossing and/or waterfront side emergency ‘station’ as NOT meeting the total intent within the SAP. Recognize as well that the current land bridge concept also includes potential for a ‘mini park’ inherent in the land bridge scheme, plus replacement of the current waterfront bathroom complex at the north end of Brackett’s Landing parking area below. While these two attributes are not verbalized within the SAP, they represent program and scope supported by both staff and the public.

    We need to remember that funding sources for this project are diverse both in terms of timing and source. The project will support both the intent and needs of the city for many years into the future. There is plenty of room and contingency within current budget projections to effectuate value engineering to the current design concept in order to maximize aesthetic, environmental, schedule, and cost efficiencies for the project.

    In summary, the planned project is the successful work effort by professionals, staff, and people of Edmonds. We must continue to support and forward this plan for ongoing design and funding.

    P.B. Lovell, PE
    Edmonds Planning Board

     

9 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Support Edmonds Waterfront Connector Project”

  1. There are many less costly ways to achieve the goals of the “connector.” This extremely expensive project will detract from the beauty of our waterfront that people come to Edmonds to see. Additionally, the beach on the north side of the ferry will have to be closed during construction – probably for two years. There are too many negatives involved in this project.

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    1. Amen. Also, what about nature, wildlife, open space and noise-free beaches. 3D pictures show wonderful beauty – but when considering scale – just a whole lot of concrete.

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  2. I believe that Mr. Lovell is speaking on behalf of a myopic minority, mostly representing a city government looking for a legacy and not the “public”. The Waterfront Connector is a bad idea. It is a costly boondoggle that addresses rare events when more pressing safety concerns remain (e.g., I have observed numerous accidents on Edmonds Way in my first year living here and aware of only one railroad related one).

    There are many reasons to reject this proposal. Here are a few. Concrete pillars will permanently spoil Sunset Beach, the overpass will generate unhealthy noise levels for beach users when trains travel beneath the Connector; the very steep climb from beach to Sunset-Edmonds entrance may exceed ADA levels, there is inadequate accounting of costs for maintenance, parking and security which will be added to city budgets, and the structure will block the water views that many enjoy from their cars parked on Sunset between Bell and Edmonds.

    All these problems and more for a multimillion road that may be used only a couple of times per year by emergency vehicles. I see no evidence of “widespread public support.” A public vote would be useful before committing to such a large scale development on public land. With future drone advancements, it is unclear that there will be any need for thie Connector by the time it is scheduled to be completed.

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  3. Beyond the professionalism of the staff working on the project and funding, a few important questions come to mind on this project. Is this the right project and safety solution for Edmonds and a residential neighborhood? Does it look like Edmonds and our waterfront? How will this project impact neighborhoods and residents already seeing increased parking and traffic? Will people using the bridge simply park in adjoining neighborhoods? Is it too expensive? Who really wants it and does the greater public really support it? Will the extra on street parking for the recently approved 9 unit apartment in same general area with no on site tenant parking have an effect or be an issue as well for residents?

    It is healthy for citizens and some council members to ask important questions regarding this project on behalf of the citizens. The future of the waterfront is at stake.

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  4. No way. You falsely purport: “support for the current design concept is universal within the greater public.” I encourage you, Mr. Lowell, to search some of the feedback tendered here at MyEdmondsNews in prior postings regarding this project. There is far more dissent than you seem to recognize.

    With regard to the concept, I’ve seen the rendering of the white ambulance (not a red fire unit like we would expect to be responding to a 9-1-1 call, but I’m sure they’ve been consulted…right!?) and heard the hypothetical story of a placid stalled train blocking access at the very moment emergency services are summoned.

    But today without a bridge, I have to believe our fire department already has a contingency plan. Perhaps they park their rig at the crossing, grab their gear, cross between the motionless train cars, commandeer or get a ride on one of the ferry’s jeeps (tugs) or from any other good Samaritan who’s stuck on the other side of the tracks. And with that, they’re probably still on-scene rendering aid in a reasonable amount of time (maybe even sooner than if they took the bridge). So, that scenario isn’t too frightening.

    Okay, so now it’s a fire incident… similar story of parking the rigs at the crossings, then passing gear across the rails between train cars and getting rides from good Samaritans who are stuck on the other side. It’s a bit of a pain, but they do what they can with Marine 16 to get the job done.

    Firefighters are problem-solvers; they adapt and overcome. I’m not concerned about some benign stalled train preventing them from getting their job done. So in either case, the bridge seems like a nicety, not a necessity in the event such rare occurrences happen simultaneously.

    Now, if a goal is to manage an actual train crash, then the bridge moves from being unnecessary to just plain foolish. The selected concept appears much too close to the action to be relied upon.

    Not only is the one selected bridge an extremely large cost for an extremely low risk, but given its proximity to a crossing, a switch, and the rail itself, it seems prone to being compromised by a very risk it may be seeking to mitigate!

    We need only look to last month’s incident involving Norfolk Southern in Pittsburgh (fortunately the cars there were only filled with miscellaneous household goods) to see how far train cars can travel away from the rail, and realize how reasonable it is to anticipate that a train derailment itself could impact the structural supports of the bridge, rendering it useless.

    Or consider a collision of a northbound train with a vehicle at a crossing coming to rest near or under the bridge. Even if the bridge is not physically damaged, there could be an ensuing fire near or under the bridge. In such case I would not expect the fire department to drive across the bridge through the fire.

    Therefore, if this one bridge is the only acceptable solution to the SAP, then the SAP is short-sighted… There needs to be a SECOND bridge so that there’s still access if one is compromised!

    Despite the love of all things bridge and fire access as indicated by my credentials, I don’t support the selected concept (nor my tongue-in-cheek 2-bridge alternative).

    B.C. Thompson, PE
    Civil Engineer and Fire Protection Engineer

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  5. Share your opinion Tuesday 9/18 – There is 1-hour set aside on the agenda for public comment at the council meeting on this project. The meeting begins at 7pm.

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  6. Following my comment at the public period of the Council meeting last night that the Mayor’s committee’s contractor had contacted the fire department and was told that they would not support a manned or unmanned fire station on the west side of the tracks, a representative of the fire department told the Council exactly what I said. One would have thought that they would have mentioned any contingency plans if they had them as you suggest.

    With regard to your thoughts on a train accident resulting in a collision with the bridge structure, there are requirements for a collision barrier if the tracks are within a certain distance.

    The Water Front Connector is the best solution for providing people on the west side of the tracks with sound emergency medical and fire protection.

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