With state and local elected officials in attendance, the ground was officially broken Wednesday afternoon for an ambitious $180 million project aimed at improving both the safety and livability of the two-and-a-half-mile stretch of Highway 99 that runs through the city of Edmonds.
This stage of the highway renovation — which will be similar to the City of Shoreline’s Aurora Corridor Project — is officially called the Highway 99 Gateway Revitalization Project. The scope of improvements include the installation of a raised landscaped median — with a total of 130 trees planted — plus mid-block left-turn pockets replacing the center left-turn lane. There will also be gateway signs at the north and south ends of the city limits, so people will know when they are entering the city. A pedestrian-activated HAWK signal will be located 600 feet north of 234th Street Southwest — similar to the one now installed on Highway 104 near City Park.
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 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.
In a brief speech Wednesday afternoon, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson noted that the project is aimed at placing “resources into a community that has been historically underserved.” Redeveloping Highway 99, Nelson added, “is a massive undertaking and it has always been something that has been too big — and how would we ever get to this place?” This initial work focused on traffic safety was mean to “jumpstart” the project, the mayor said.
Preparatory work for construction, including erosion control, sign placement and mobilizing equipment, began this week. The project is expected to be mostly completed by the end of this year. The public is invited to attend a virtual kickoff meeting for the project via Zoom from 6-7 p.m. Thursday, June 16. Learn more in our previous story.
Nelson thanked the Washington State Legislature and in particular 21st District State Sen. Marko Liias, whose leadership has helped garner funding for the project. “Of a seven-phase project, we have funding now to start to phase four,” Nelson said. “We are well underway and this is going to be really a changing environment here.”
“I want to make sure that our state highways are integrated into our communities in ways that are meaningful and intentional, that bring an economic value, that bring neighbors to the areas and create value for all of us,” said Liias, who chairs the Senate’s Transportation Committee. “I’m excited that we invested in Connecting Washington (transportation funding) in this first phase (of the Highway 99 project), I’m excited about the Move Ahead (Washington) package, which we just approved this (2022) session, we committed more. And I’m here to tell you, Mr. Mayor, in our next package we are going to put in even more. We’ll be there for phases five, six and seven as well. This is exactly the kind of investment we need, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Following Liias to the podium was Acting City of Edmonds Public Works Director Rob English, who said that after this gateway project is complete, the next phase will include streetscape improvements from 244th to 238th Streets Southwest. These include “the improvements behind the curb,” English said. “The wider sidewalks, the planter strip, the street lighting, all those things that enhance the corridor…and take it to a complete streets corridor that is inviting to pedestrians and people that use it to access stores and restaurants.” Those streetscape enhancements will be funded through the state’s Move Ahead Washington program.
The next portion to be addressed — from 224th to 220th Streets Southwest — will focus on improvements to the 220th Street intersection. Additional stages are planned, which will take the project north to the Edmonds city limits at 212th Street Southwest, “and, boy, we are looking forward to it,” English said.
During theJune 16 kick-off meeting, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the project and learn more information.You can access the meeting at this link: edmondswa-gov.zoom.us/j/85825819612.
To stay informed throughout construction, sign up for email updates by emailing HWY99Stage2@edmondswa.gov. For more information about the Highway 99 Gateway-Revitalization Stage 2 Project, visit www.edmondscorridor99.org/2overview.
— Story and photos by Teresa Wippel