Edmonds waterfront is a complicated dance between ferries, cars, buses, freight trains, and pedestrian beach-goers. Each have their own needs for access and they are often at conflict with each other. I do not deny the value of looking into solutions to improve access to the waterfront to reduce these conflicts.
In 2015, the City attempted just that. Mayor Earling appointed a Task Force that included representatives from four major transportation agencies (BNSF, WSDOT – Ferries Division, Community Transit, and Sound Transit), three Edmonds residents, and Co-Chairs Councilmember Mike Nelson and Port of Edmonds Commissioner Jim Orvis. Public Works, City engineers, and members of the consultant team were also present.
Noticeably, representation from the Parks Department or City of Edmonds Planning Division were not included in the Task Force. Either of which may have paused to consider the human experience. Too often city government finds itself operating in functional silos. This has to change.
There was good intent from both the Task Force and City Council. Discussion was had about how to properly engage the public and which visual impacts they felt the community would not be amenable to. Neither strategy was very effective as evidenced by the community response. The City should re-think is public engagement policy and develop a consistent approach that improves meaningful, equitable outreach.
The Task Force tried to meet the goals of all agencies in one project and they didn’t fairly weigh the community response to aesthetics. Surely, the Edmonds community is a stakeholder in the project on equal footing with BNSF, WSDOT, Community Transit, and Sound Transit. Destroying the beach with a “freeway” off-ramp should be considered a “fatal flaw” just like BNSF considered any track alteration a “fatal flaw.”
Edmonds Waterfront Connector is what happens when engineers and representatives from major transportation agencies design things for themselves—all function, no form. The community was not impressed, drew a line in the sand, and said “not here.” I agree. We need to find a better solution.
I am happy to live in a community that is politically active. The City could do a better job harnessing the time and talent of its citizens for this and future projects.
— Brad Shipley