Increased costs, environmental review for Highway 99 project, councilmembers learn Tuesday

City Transportation Engineer Bertrand Haus, upper right, provides an update to the council’s parks and public works commitee Tuesday.

An update on the City of Edmonds’ efforts to revitalize the Highway 99 corridor — including news of additional costs and environmental review requirements — was among the items presented during three virtual city council committee meetings on Tuesday.

The 2.3-mile Edmonds section of Highway 99 runs from 244th to 212th Streets Southwest and also includes portions owned by Snohomish County (unincorporated Esperance), and the cities of Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood. When Edmonds launched the revitalization effort in 2018, the plan was to complete the project in segments over 15 years. Two stages have been completed: Stage 1, which involved overall corridor planning, and Stage 2, which included installation of center medians, a specialized HAWK pedestrian signal and signage at either end of the corridor.

Tuesday’s presentation at the council’s parks and public works committee — with Councilmbers Susan Paine and Michelle Dotsch — focused on the next two segments: Stage 3, which runs from 244th Street Southwest — at the Edmonds/Shoreline border — to 238th Street Southwest, and Stage 4, which goes from 224th to 220th Streets Southwest.

Improvements planned during the next two stages include the addition of sidewalks, bike lanes, landscape buffers, stormwater treatment, street/pedestrian light poles and capacity improvements at the 238th and 220th signalized intersections. There will also be opportunities for artwork in the segments along the corridor, which includes three districts: the Gateway, International and Health Districts.

The city started the design for Phase 3 last year, and City Transportation Engineer Bertrand Haus said that there have been some “notable changes” since then. The city council in March 2023 approved the addition of separated bike lanes on both sides of the entire corridor to comply with Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Complete Streets requirements, along with the addition of bike lanes along 238th Street from Highway 99 to 84th, and an “active transportation path” along 220th that connects Highway 99 to the Interurban Trail.

Haus then turned it over to Scott Sawyer of consultant SCJ Alliance, who explained how research into the chemical 6PPD-quinone — which in 2020 was identified as toxic to adult salmon — will be impacting the Highway 99 revitalization work. Dust from vehicle tires contains the chemical, which is used to slow tire degradation. The dust is washed into stormwater systems “and eventually into salmon-bearing streams,” Sawyer said.

In 2022, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fish Services began requiring that all roadway projects go through a “formal consultation” process, which will add two years of review time to the environmental approval process, Sawyer said. The only exception is if an entity can prove it is able to infiltrate all of a project’s stormwater so it doesn’t end up in local waterways.

WSDOT is working with federal agencies on new programmatic guidance in an effort to reduce schedule impacts, and the State Department of Ecology is developing stormwater manuals that could be out this year, he said.

“The current design for the projects are going to be done in compliance with that expected manual,” Sawyer said, although he added it’s possible that the manual may be challenged in court by advocacy groups.

As a result, “there are different factors that come into play with the (Highway 99 project) schedule,” Haus said. “The environmental is going to take a little longer.” Right-of-way acquisition is also expected to take a while, since “there are a lot of parcels in both (Phase 3 and 4) projects,” he added. Design and right of way are currently scheduled to be completed in 2027 for Stage 3, and in 2028 for Stage 4, with construction of Phase 3 completed in 2029 and Phase 4 in 2030.

Cost estimates for right-of-way acquisition have increased due to the need for wider roadways to accommodate bicycle lanes and extended improvements along 238th and 220th Streets Southwest, the addition of locations for artwork and “inflation and value appreciation,” Haus explained.

Compared to preliminary cost estimates in 2022, recent figures at 30% design indicate that the costs have nearly doubled.

The council still has to make a decision about whether to convert overhead utilities to underground. This conversion would be fully paid by certain utility companies, such as Comcast and Wave, while other utility providers — like Snohomish County PUD and Ziply — might provide the city with partial credit for the conversions.

Assuming such credits, the total preliminary cost for undergrounding the utilities would be $5.8 million for Stage 3 and $8.4 million for stage 4.

City Engineer Rob English explained that Stage 3 — estimated at $26.5 million, including utility undergrounding — is funded through State of Washington Connecting Washington and Move Ahead Washington initiatives, plus local real estate excise taxes. Stage 4, meanwhile, has so far received funding from federal grants, State Connecting Washington funds and traffic impact fees.

English said that staff has requested that $22.5 million in Move Ahead Washington funds for Stage 3 — currently programmed for 2031 — be shifted ahead to earlier years, to help fund the right-of-way acquisition phase (2026) and the construction phase (2028). That is currently in the state’s supplemental budget, awaiting the governor’s approval.

Stage 4 is a more expensive project, estimated at $35.7 million (also including $8.4 million in utility undergrounding). As for funding, “we have a bigger gap on this project,” English said, pointing to a shortfall of $2.2 million for the right-of-way phase and $22.1 million for construction.

A presentation on the Highway 99 revitalization project is scheduled for next week’s city council meeting.

In other business, the parks and public works committee agreed to forward to a future council consent agenda the approval of event agreements for several signature Edmonds events, including:

The Edmonds Summer Market, which will run Saturdays from May 4 – Oct. 19 (excluding Aug. 10, which is Taste Edmonds weekend). The market, which is run by the Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society, will expand in 2024 to include “three or four” additional booths on 5th Avenue just north of Bell Street, Deputy Parks Director Shannon Burley said.

SpringFest, a craft fair produced by Urban Craft Uprising, on Saturday, May 11 at the Frances Anderson Center Playfield.

The Edmonds Arts Festival on Father’s Day weekend (June 14, 15, 16). The festival uses space in the Frances Anderson Center building, the playfield and bandshell as well as the plaza area west of the building and Edmonds Library Plaza Room. Sponsored by the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation, the festival is “a pretty heavy hitter when it comes to economic development,” Burley said.

July 4th Parade and 5K/1K run, produced by the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce.

Taste Edmonds, Friday-Sunday, Aug. 9-11, which is the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce’s largest fundraising event. The Taste is returning to Civic Playfield after being moved to Frances Anderson Playfield while Civic Park was under construction. At the time, concerns were raised that Taste Edmonds wouldn’t be allowed back at Civic since it required paid admission — something that violated conditions of grant funding for park renovations. However, Burley told committee members Tuesday the city had confirmed with the involved agencies that events with admission fees can be held at Civic Park as long as they are temporary.

Clockwise from left: Finance Committee Chair Will Chen discusses possible changes to the city’s fund balance reserve policy with Administrative Services Director Dave Turley, Deputy Finance Director Kim Dunscombe, and Councilmembers Michelle Dotsch and Jenna Nand.

During the finance committee meeting, Councilmembers Will Chen and Jenna Nand (with Councilmember Dotsch sitting in) spent the majority of their time discussing possible improvements to the city’s 2019 fund balance reserve policy. Chen noted that the policy was put to its first test in November 2023, when the council passed a resolution declaring a fiscal emergency and authorizing the use of general fund reserves. A finance policy advisory group made up of councilmembers, former councilmembers and residents reviewed fund balance reserve policies of several cities comparable to Edmonds and came up with suggestions for changes. These ranged from how to determine the appropriate level of fund balance reserve to defining appropriate trigger-warning mechanisms.

Chen noted that the group’s suggested changes have been shared with Mike Bailey, who is heading up the Blue Ribbon Panel formed by Mayor Mike Rosen to address the city’s financial situation.

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. Edmonds Summer Market parking: in the past, citizen parking on 6th Ave (in front of police & fire stations) has been blockaded until 4p for the market vendors – that means that H parking and visitors to Civic Field are not allowed parking during these hours on Saturdays. This needs to be changed ASAP.

  2. These comments are my own, and not as a representative of any government or group. Please use current science in environmental review and planning, not the State Stormwater Manual. The Manual is not regulatory or science, it is a political bit of “guidance” which self admits that it in no way displaces State, Federal, or Local needs, desires, or requirements. No recent science is used in the current State Stormwater Manual, and the proposed draft Manual doesn’t add much except an early “bench” study of 6ppd that implied 6ppd could be harmlessly infiltrated. I have heard that “real world” studies by the State have failed to confirm that early “bench” study. If you are infiltrating to aquifers that eventually reach surface water, you are still delivering 6ppd to the Coho. Yes, 6ppd will delay random unplanned growth, but shouldn’t we focus on cleaner tires and fewer toxic chemicals rather than on growth that causes environmental destruction.

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