Letter to the editor: The process — and reasons — for the Waterfront Connector

2003
33

Editor:

Professor Prakash’s letter with respect to the Waterfront Connector, has received a great deal of attention. Most of his points have been covered by others so I will limit my comments to a couple of items I believe are misunderstood.

First, this is not Mayor Earling’s pet project. We should all remember the train blocking both Main and Dayton several years ago. Remember folks climbing through an empty boxcar? Remember the pregnant woman needing help, who was evacuated through that boxcar, and the outcry after, that something had to be done to provide emergency access to the waterfront. In forming a committee to develop a solution, Mayor Earling and the council were responding to the citizens of Edmonds.

Second, the Mayor did not exert undue influence on the task force. Aside from the first meeting where members were introduced, the mayor never attended a meeting. Councilmember Nelson and I, as co-chairs, were not tasked with anything other than chair the meeting and keep things moving. The staff was there to answer questions and conduct liaison with stakeholders such as BNSF and the Department of Transportation. The consultants provided technical information, kept minutes, analyzed reams of data, and produced technical drawings. It was the council that voted to move forward.

Third, every suggestion proposed by the public was evaluated. Some were dismissed as too expensive, and others as inadequate for the task. Those remaining were scrubbed thoroughly and rated on a number of criteria ranging from cost to environmental impact. And yes, views were considered.

The alternative chosen was not chosen casually. The west side of the tracks is a busy, crowded, concentrated urban area. I must confess I was surprised at how crowded it is. The emergency services required are not only to save the occasional heart attack victim. They also include police and fire response. There are restaurants, condos, businesses, parks, and we are about to build a Community Center there. And don’t forget the 900-boat marina. There have been several marina fires in the last few years in Puget Sound, at least one with fatalities. One of those fires was in our own marina. The waterfront is one of the most densely populated areas of Edmonds.

Whether we need the connector or not, is up to the public and the city council –some of whom have changed their minds. Basically,it is whether we believe the waterfront needs adequate emergency service. But, however you feel it is not about corrupt, uncaring, egotistical politicians. We, in Edmonds, have been blessed with honest conscientious, intelligent city officials. We voted them into office. I may disagree with some or all of them some or all of the time, that is the nature of civil discourse. But I respect them for their service, the time they devote to their positions, and the integrity they display.

Jim Orvis
Edmonds

33 Replies to “Letter to the editor: The process — and reasons — for the Waterfront Connector”

  1. Jim,

    There are some very troubling issue you bring up when in comes to the facts that you have laid out. You did not mention the fact that there has never been a death on the waterfront due to a train blockage, or that one incident in over 50 years does not require Edmonds tax payers to pay for a pet project of Phil Williams and the Mayor. Yes this is a pet project.

    Also if you are talking about safety real safety then it would be far better for the waterfront to have an satellite triage center at the senior building. They are renovating in the next few months so the construction would be happening either way.

    Fire District told me at one of the city counsel meetings is take 3.8 min to reach the waterfront, that includes all blockages, train delays etc over a year.. 3.8 min.. After the new connector they estimate 3.4 minutes on on average to reach the waterfront.. That is .4 difference for 30 Million dollars.

    30 Million dollars to destroy the Edmonds waterfront, Brackets Landing the beach not to mention ad more traffic burden to the residents of Sunset then they already have. All this for a lie..

    I do agree that Edmonds City counsel is made up or good people, the ones supporting this are just wrong.

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    1. Scot. Very good points. Isnt there supposed to be 2 tracks down there, as one was wiped out in a landslide? How much to put the second track back it to prevent blockage?

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      1. There was never two tracks thru downtown Edmonds. BNSF will eventually add the second one in order to eliminate the need for trains to have to wait at the north end of Sunset Ave. while approaching traffic from the south uses the single track. The second track will do nothing for any blockages at Main or Dayton streets.

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      2. BNSF will likely build the 2nd track in the near future. The missing link in not that long. It runs from Edmonds Street to just north of Point Wells. The new link would be east of the current track and would remove some of the loading area between the current track and the Depot. Once installed one track would be northbound and the other would be southbound. To accommodate passengers some method would have to allow passenger to get to the existing west track. Probably some over pass with elevators and all. We have seen drawing of such an idea when the Connector plan was first considered. To provide a save place some platform would need to be developed on the west side of the current track.

        County records show BNSF owns Railroad Avenue. The new platform would likely take up a portion of the current road. Remaining road and parking along RR ave would likely change. There may not be enough remaining to allow for 2 way traffic and parking. This could limit access to the Waterfront Center, reduce parking in the area and convert the road to one-way. All this can work but it will likely limit vehicle movement in the area.

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    2. The 3.8 minutes it takes for emergency vehicles to get to the waterfront and the .4 minutes improvement are times related to non-blockage trips. Without the new connector the time to reach the waterfront in blockage situations is really unknown.

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  2. Excellent letter, Jim– and factual, which is most important. BL for me, your letter simply validates my previous comment to MEN regarding Mr. Prakash’s letter which focused on our mayor, embellished with an excess of verbiage attempting to make our upcoming elections all about the ‘viaduct’. This premise and direction is completely off the mark. Our upcoming elections are by no means a ‘referendum’ on the Waterfront Connector (aka ‘viaduct’). In truth, if our city officials and candidates are honest in their responsibilities they should endorse and support the Waterfront Connector Project.

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  3. “It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.” – Mr. Spock

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  4. In Mayor Dave’s latest missive about all the great things achieved under his superior leadership, he talks at length about the Connector and how vital it is for the greater good of the community. Doesn’t sound like he was very neutral or relatively uninvolved in its evolution to approval, as portrayed in the Orvis letter to the Editor. Time for big change at City Hall.

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  5. Thank you for a very reasoned and balanced article. To paraphrase what you said, I may agree or disagree with conclusions that are drawn, but I fully agree that opinions of all participants deserve thoughtful and courteous consideration.

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  6. An excellent letter Jim. I would like to add a few comments myself.
    The two committees were appointed by the mayor to examine the issue of providing access to the west side of the RR tracks and advise him of our recommendations. The first committee examined over 50 recommendations and chose the one they thought was best as Jim Orvis said. The second committee made recommendations on the design of the bridge.
    I was a member of both committees. To say that the mayor in any way influenced the finding of either committee is totally incorrect. I saw him stick his head in the room twice, but never said anything to anyone in the room. Our findings were recommendations to him. As mayor, he has the right and the duty to make recommendations to the Council. Using the committee’s recommendation, he made his own decisions as he rightfully should, in this case accepting the recommendations of the committees.
    Now we have a professor saying our decisions were wrong. Three council members have also changed their vote. In the first of the mayor’s recommendations, all council members voted for the Connector. In the second recommendation by the mayor, three that strongly supported the Connector in the initial phase voted against it. That is their privilege, but I haven’t heard why they changed their mind. The professor’s comments where interesting too. I checked and apparently, he did not attend a single public meeting. I could also not find any written comment from him made during the public comment period. One wonders why a person so opposed to the Connector didn’t comment during the public comment period which was widely publicized.

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  7. I’m not accusing the Mayor or any Councilmen of corruption or not being deducted to their jobs. I am suggesting that the Mayor is pretty fond of himself and some of the Council folks are a little too joined at the hip with his ideas and visions for the City. I once heard Mayor Earling refer to the Council as “My City Council.” Not sure what he meant by that, but I took it as suggesting they somehow answer to him. I’m glad he is leaving and I’m glad some younger folks are stepping up to the plate. After all, it will become their town after us old coots are long gone. It won’t hurt a thing to look at some of these “visions” with fresh eyes.

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  8. We lived in a town which was proposing a bridge over the railroad tracks in the heart of town. They decided to pay for a model of the project to help people understand the impact on the town. With a proposed budget of $30,000,000 it does not seem a luxury to have a model. Does anyone know how much such models cost?

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  9. As an “ill informed” and probably not “credible” citizen let me see if I understand this. Based on one incident in 50 years where someone had to crawl thru a boxcar, the Mayor called for a study commission to present the council with three possible plans for an “Emergency Connector” that he deems essential for the protection of the community on the Waterfront. So for 30 million dollars we get a structure that will cut .4 seconds off of the emergency response time. Sounds like a hell of a good investment to me. (All we need are two warning signs and some real bad publicity aimed at BNSF and WSF.) Of course that’s not the Wambolt/Earling Edmonds Kind of day approach, so lets blow the cash. Hell, the Fed.s are paying for most of it anyway and it will add lots of charm to Brakett’s Landing.

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  10. Captain Greiner, Thank you for your service. You have been intimately involved in this project on many levels. Would you or anyone involved in this project be willing to confirm the fact this structure is being planned to be 10 feet higher than required to anticipate higher sea level rises in the future?

    On another note, I don’t think its fair we toss Phil Williams into the mix in this discussion, as he is the Director of Public works for our city. I have had a few interactions with Phil over the years, he’s a very polite and approachable leader, that is highly respected in his profession. We are lucky to have this person as Director in our City. if we asked Phil to build a bridge to Kingston, he would do it. Phil is just following orders and doing what the city is asking of him.

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  11. Super great point Barbara! When the prior owner of the Antique Mall/Safeway, now Salish Landing held a contest for the best ideas for redevelopment EW students took the challenge on, created some great ideas and even build a model. The prior owner offered prize money but did not pay the students for winning the contest. Several groups stepped up to gather the prize money for the students. Council member Steve Bernheim along with ACE were the lead folks in stepping in and supporting the students. The model they created was given to Steve and was displayed a number of places. The cost was the prize money and it benefited the schools.

    The school district or ECC both have model building capabilities in their labs. With this year coming to a close it could be tight on timing but my bet is either the ESD students or ECC could build a model for very little cost. My guess is many folks who have commented about the “Connector” would be willing to contribute to a fund to not only pay for the modeling work but to reward the students with adding to the scholarship fund for both schools.

    Great idea Barbara! Let get some action on moving the modeling idea forward.

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  12. Right again Mike, on all counts in my opinion. If there is any chance of a high tide / storm taking the thing out, better to re think it for sure. Elected officials past and present are fair game; that comes with the territory. Civil service employees and volunteers should be off limits for criticism. I’m guilty of not officially protesting when I should have, so shame on me too. I can accept it, I just think it’s a waste of money and not an aesthetic plus for the town.

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    1. You’re unabated passion for Edmonds is something Mr. Wright agree or disagree with you’re comments, unequivocally you are truly a force! I found myself and friends agreeing with you more than not this week Mr. Wright such is life an evolving perspective of thought and Ideas.

      Cheers,

      Mike McMurray

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  13. Darrol and Barbara, count me in for a $50.00 donation if you get something going. This is a great idea. I’ll be watching for fund me website or send to address. Clint

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  14. There is conflict in Mr. Steffy’s comment and Mr. Wambolt’s comment about how long it takes for the fire dept. to get to the waterfront. Steffy says the 3.8 includes blockage times and Wambolt says not. The 3.4 minutes was apparently an estimate? Who is correct on the conditions for the stated 3.8 time? Perhaps more to the point, how long would it take for the fire dept. to get to the waterfront if they were already there? Oh, that’s right, since the City now has little or no say in how the Fire Dept. is run; there’s no chance for a small aid station West of the tracks maybe near the almost never used Fire Boat or the new multi purpose center. Sure interested in getting Gary Nelson’s take on all this. Time for change at the ‘ol City Hall.

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  15. In answer to Michael McMurry’s question, the railroad required the above rail clearance of the Connector to be 2 or 3 feet greater than in the past, not 10′. Without that addition height, the new roadway would have been at about the grade level of Sunset.

    The committees did look at the number of emergency vehicle crossing and delays. There were two really long long ones, one for 5 hrs and the other for 2 to 3 hours, The second one was believed to have been caused by a suicide.

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    1. Captain Greiner, Thank you for the information I thought the 10 feet I had been informed was incorporated into the plan for sea level rise seemed a little excessive so glad you clarified and I fact checked.

      Most appreciated,

      Mike McMurray

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      1. The projected sea level rise is driving more than just the height of the train clearance. The estimates of higher tides ranges from 2-4 feet. That estimate caused the city council to consider how to deal with increased tides in permitting the Waterfront Activity Center. When the building height for the WFAC was considered along with the tidal estimate, council approved a “change” in how the height of a building is measured. Instead of raising the building height in the code and creating the stir that often height causes in Edmonds they defined the starting point for measurement to be 2 feet higher then the existing starting point. The end result is the building will be 2 ft higher than the old code but the same height above the new starting point.

        BNSF is accounting for the same potential sea level change. I am not certain of how the code is written for WFAC but logic would suggest that any reconstruction on the water front should have the same “starting point” benefit and effectively be allow to “grow” to the higher point. That would mean over time all water front buildings could be 2 ft higher.

        I understand the WFAC is actually raising its ground floor by 3 ft while still saying in compliance with the new code.

        We had a very high tide earlier this year that was not a King tide but near that level and the it occurred on a calm day. The water had no wave action and the measurement at the Senior Center parking lot showed a 2 foot increased tide would actually be 1 inch above the current lot. Good things the floor will be 11 inches above that. Wind driven King tides today create specular pictures and video, imagine what it will look like when the tides are 2 feet higher.

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  16. The very wise bearded leader of the tribe gathered his seven clan elders together and commanded them to form a gathering of family heads for the purpose of presenting him with three plans for bridges over Hell to access Paradise. The family heads dutifully performed their given task and the bearded wise one chose the bridge to be presented to his seven clan elders for their blessing. The seven clan elders dutifully blessed the chosen bridge over Hell to Paradise. The peons of the village were taxed heavily and the bridge over Hell to Paradise was built. The End.

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  17. Sorry if this was already covered in the planning, but the army has vehicles capable of making a portable bridge in under 2 minutes. We could contact JBLM to see if they have one that they are getting rid of that we could buy, and keep it near the Edmonds waterfront. For a few million we could have an emergency bridge option, and the best part is that it could be used by all of Snohomish county in case there is a bridge that becomes unusable from an earthquake or flood. That way all of Snohomish county would share in the safety benefits, there would be no intrusive construction at Brackets landing, and we would be spending a few million instead of 30 (possibly with Snohomish County funding as well).

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  18. Please, Evan, this is Edmonds, no practicality allowed. We are all rich and money is no object. And yes,Darrol, I can’t spell, I’m lousy at paragraphs and totally un civil. Par. Thank goodness we have cooler heads like you, Mike, and everyone else contributing to this discussion including everyone I don’t happen to agree with at times. You are all wonderful people including Mayor Dave and Mr. Wambolt. Edmonds is the BEST (even Woodway). Happy Easter Bunny to All.

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  19. Yesterday, May 6th, I observed four emergency vehicles parked on RR Ave. near the Police/Fire boat. I also observed that the boat was out of it’s slip, a not that frequent occurrence. I observed that it was a beautiful sunny day with fairly light wind at that time. The vehicles were two ladder pumpers; one SCF 1 and one Lynnwood Fire; one SCF aid car, and one Command car from SCF. I would estimate that would equal, at minimum, four commissioned personnel out in the craft, but likely more, for whatever reason or reasons (presumably either training or a rescue).

    My take away from this observation is that these emergency professionals aren’t too worried about being trapped for hours due to train congestion or (God forbid) a train or Marina catastrophe of some sort. Keeping in mind that that amount of equipment and personnel represents a significant amount of lost “equipment and manpower” if a significant event was occurring on the East side of the tracks somewhere.

    Based on these observations alone, I think the citizens of Edmonds have been sold a major “bill of goods” on this Connector business. Thirty million dollars is a pretty high cost insurance policy against something that quite likely may never happen. Sort of like buying over priced insurance against a meteor strike.

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  20. Good heavens, Ron, if you and I start agreeing on some stuff (I know you didn’t say you agreed, by the way) there might be hope for the future of our not so little town after all. You and I are facing and have faced (referring to myself) a very similar circumstance in our private lives and I do very much admire and respect you as the good person you are.

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