All it takes is one trip to Edmonds to see the problems.
Railroad tracks run down the west side of the city near the shoreline. Passengers who want to take the Edmonds-Kingston ferry have to cross those tracks to board the boat, as do people who want to access the beach, pier and other waterfront areas.
With normal traffic patterns, about 40 trains go through the city each day. That shuts down access to the city's waterfront for about two hours a day, said Phil Williams, the city's public works director.
If a train breaks down in the area, which happens at least occasionally, it can leave people stranded on either side of the tracks for an hour or more, Mayor Dave Earling said.
Traffic entering the city from the north and south to catch a ferry used by 3.8 million walk-on passengers and drivers each year creates its own long waits and traffic snarls.
The city has been trying to find answers to the waterfront traffic issues for years, spurring the request for state money to pay for a study of how to help solve the issues, Earling said.
“It could be an underpass, overpass, a trench or any number of things,” Earling said.
The latest suggestion: Build a trench from Dayton to Main streets to allow trains to pass through the city below grade and traffic to pass over. It is proffered by two local residents, Chuck and Katherine Gold, who developed a website, Edmonds Train Trench, to outline their proposal.
Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF Railway, said his company would have to review an official proposal on the trench before he could comment on it.
The Golds could not be reached for comment. Earling said he would meet with them after the July 4 holiday to discuss their idea again.
Earling said he's received emails from residents wanting the city to study just the trench idea. But the city needs “a good, conclusive answer” on what action to take, because any of the three alternatives would be complicated, he said.
Earling said a study of transportation alternatives is needed because daily train traffic is expected to increase significantly by 2030, just 16 years away.
“If we approach the 100 projected trains, we would have to shut down access to the waterfront and the state highway leading to the ferry for an estimated four and a half hours in a 24-hour period,” Earling said.
“Four hours would be untenable,” he said. It would mean limited access to the underwater dive park, the port and the senior center.
The city made a similar request for planning money for transportation issues during the last legislative session, but like other transportation spending issues, it foundered.
The heads of legislative committees working on transportation issues “understand the challenges we're facing,” Earling said. “We hope to find some way to get the money this session.”
If the city gets the money to undertake the study, it could take about 18 months to reach a decision on the best alternative to relieve downtown congestion, Williams said.
“I think there will be a significant public process associated with this,” he said, including outreach to the community and public hearings.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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