With construction set to start this summer, revitalization project will change look of Hwy 99 through Edmonds

Acting Public Works Director Rob English (right-bottom) shows before and after conditions for the planned Highway 99 Revitalization Project during the Edmonds City Council’s Parks and Public Works Committee meeting via Zoom Tuesday night. Listening are commitee members Neil Tibbott (center) and Kristina Johnson (top).

Construction bids are scheduled to be opened April 21 for a much-anticipated project aimed at revitalizing the two-and-one-quarter-mile stretch of Highway 99 that runs through the city of Edmonds. If all goes well — and nothing is guaranteed with ongoing labor shortages and a backlog of concrete orders due to a long drivers’ strike — the effort would be completed in 150 working days, or just over six months, said Acting Public Works Director Rob English.

Providing a project update to the Edmonds City Council’s Parks and Public Works Committee Tuesday night, English admitted he is “a little concerned about the price volatity right now, what kind of bids we get, how many bids we get,” and whether the project bid will fall within the engineer’s bid estimate of $5.23 million.

“We’re hopeful that the bids will come in around $5.2 million,” English said. “We’ll just see what happens on the 21st.” Assuming a successful bidding process, the contract would come to the full city council for approval on May 3.

“We really want to get this project up and started to maximize the summer construction season,” he added.

This stage of the project — formally known as the Highway 99 Gateway Revitalization — is being funded by the state’s Connecting Washington transportation funds, with $270,000 in city real estate excise tax (REET) available if needed, English said.

The Highway 99 HAWK Signal will be similar to this one located on Highway 104 next to Edmonds City Park.

The scope of improvements include the installation of a raised landscaped median with mid-block left-turn pockets — replacing the center left-turn lane — plus gateway signs at the north and south ends of the city limits. There will also be a pedestrian-activated HAWK signal 600 feet north of 234th Street Southwest — similar to the one now installed on Highway 104 near City Park — aimed at making highway pedestrian crossings safer.

A vertical north gateway sign will be located north of 212th Street Southwest — within a center median island — while the south horizontal sign will be placed north of 244th Street Southwest, in front of the Campell Nelson car dealership.

The city plans to plant 130 trees in the center median landscape, with tree types that include hornbean, magnolia, parrotia, maidenhair and zelkova. The selection of trees, as well as other landscaping decisions including irrigation design, were made in conjunction with the city’s parks department staff, which will be responsible for maintaining the plants after the project is completed.

“It’s a brutal environment for plants,” Edmonds Parks Department Director Angie Feser said of maintaining the landscaping along a busy roadway that generates both traffic and heat. The plants chosen for the project, she said, are “drought tolerant and extremely hardy” with the idea of minimizing irrigation required. There is also a safety factor for parks employees, as a lane of traffic must be closed to perform any landscaping work, she added.

Making the stretch of Highway 99 through Edmonds a safer place for both pedestrians and drivers — as well as revitalizing nearby neighborhoods — has been a key component of the city’s Highway 99 Subarea Plan, approved in 2017. But with federal grant dollars to cover the project’s estimated $184 million price tag hard to come by, the city decided to focus on installing landscaped medians along the entire centerline to improve both safety and aesthetics. In 2017 and 2018, the city worked with SCJ consultants to complete the Highway 99 Gateway – Revitalization Stage 1 planning project, which produced conceptual plans and construction cost estimates. Now it’s time for Stage 2 construction.

Revitalization of the entire Highway 99 corridor could take as long as 15 years, with various aspects of the project completed in segments. Overall, the Edmonds project would be similar to the City of Shoreline’s Aurora Corridor Project, completed in 2017.

In a related matter, the Parks and Public Works Committee heard a request from staff to approve a supplemental agreement of approximately $90,000 with SCJ to provide professional services during the construction phase. Committee members Johnson and Tibbott recommended placing this agreement on the full council’s consent agenda for approval.

Another discussion of note, toward the end of the committee meeting, was a new agenda item regarding the process for adding street lights to Edmonds neighborhoods that need them. One low-cost way to accomplish that, English said, is to add lights on existing PUD power poles, which the utility would do at no cost — and the city would then be responsible for ongoing maintenance. The committee agreed that portions of the Lake Ballinger neighborhood would be a good place to start that effort, and English agreed to come back with more information on next steps at a later meeting.

— By Teresa Wippel





  1. Are any of the proposed median trees and plants native to Washington? This could be a wonderful opportunity to feature our state’s drought tolerant and hardy native plants. Our Governor made a declaration that April is Native Plant Month, encouraging all of us, including cities and parks, to use native plants as much as possible in our landscaping. The plantings around the Highway 99 redevelopment would provide a highly visible example for the thousands who live and travel in this corridor.

  2. Problem with using “native plants” is most of them are trashy looking weeds that grow too fast and have little aesthetic value.

    1. I disagree that native plants are trashy weeds. Natives have been used beautifully in the landscaping at the 50 Pine Condominiums, Hazel Miller Plaza on 5th Avenue, and at the Native Plant Demonstration Garden by the Fish Hatchery—check them out! The natives I planted all over my yard are blooming with lovely flowers and thriving even in dry summers. Visit the Native Plant Society website (www.wnps.org) or the Snohomish Conservation District Native Plant Sale website (www.theplantsale.org) to see the wonderful variety of plants, many of which are drought and heat tolerant. These are the plants that Nature chose to thrive in our environment—they are worthy of consideration whenever we install landscaping.

  3. Kudos to Angie Feser for the consideration of trees that thrive on neglect and little water….! these trees have to endure hot summers, car exhausts, road debris. Good job.

  4. Frank,

    Not sure what “trashy looking” native plants you are talking about, but that certainly hasn’t been my experience with native trees and bushes. Vine maples are beautiful urban landscape friendly trees, for example. There are many others. But it’s highly doubtful any would work for a median strip.


    Just did a quick search and found an excellent website about native trees and bushes: https://your.kingcounty.gov/dnrp/library/water-and-land/yard-and-garden/native-plant-guide-western-washington.pdf

    None of the trees that will be used are on that list. However, Director Feser’s statement “It’s brutal environment for plants,” couldn’t be more true. The trees chosen were selected based on many factors, including drought tolerance, height at maturity, root system, and their hardiness to survive in the middle of Hwy 99. I trust that the Parks Department has made careful choices.

  5. It seems like summers with virtually no rain around here are a relatively new phenomenon (fairly recent climate change) so I would think most of our native trees and plants would probably not be of the low water demand variety. Perhaps Barbara Chase could help shed some light on this as she is a very knowledgeable local person about our native plants and trees in general.

  6. If the opening (or lack there of) of the new community office at 238th and 99 is any indication of the solidness of timing announcements by our city, I have very little faith this will happen on the schedule provided. That said, I cannot wait to see some measurable progress towards this project. I hope we are reconsidering renaming the stretch of road from Highway 99 to something more neighborhood friendly.

  7. Great to see this happening on the eastern front of Edmonds. Keep it up. Edmonds has so much cultural diversity in this corridoor. Great urban design can make the 99 corridoor so much more pedestrian friendly and visually attractive.

  8. I am a big fan of native plants, but most natives are in a very different environment than the middle of Hwy 99.

    Vine maples are certainly not trashy looking but they thrive near tall natives such as Douglas fir. They like some water. Our summers are pretty dry.

    Many of the trees in the median strip in Shoreline are doing well. I have not seen natives there. Lake
    Forest Park has used vine maples in a shaded busy street area. They have survived but I would not describe them as thriving. Perhaps talking with Shoreline and Lake Forest Park about their experience with trees in median strips could inform what we will be doing on Highway 99.

  9. Is there an update on what happened after the bids were opened? Has a start date been set?

    1. Yes, the action was summarized in this May 3 council meeting story: https://myedmondsnews.com/2022/05/council-deliberations-on-overnight-camping-ordinance-continued-to-thursday/
      Here’s the info:
      – Awarded the construction contract for the Highway 99 Gateway-Revitalization Stage 2 Project to Westwater Construction Company, which came in with the low bid of $6,632,644, with a $663,300 management reserve. The bid was 25% above the engineer’s estimate, due to the challenging bid climate in Seattle area. There’s a backlog of projects due to the recent concrete strike and difficulties in hiring skilled labor, and material prices are also higher.

      The scope of Highway 99 improvements include installing a raised landscaped median with mid-block left-turn pockets — replacing the center left-turn lane — plus adding gateway signs at the north and south ends of the city limits. There will also be a pedestrian-activated HAWK signal 600 feet north of 234th Street Southwest — similar to the one now installed on Highway 104 near City Park — aimed at making highway pedestrian crossings safer.

      The construction timeline is approximately six months and it’s expected the bulk of the work will be completed by the end of the year. The HAWK signal isn’t likely to be installed until spring 2023 due to supply chain issues, Acting Public Works Director Rob English said.

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