Rail station renovation could help Edmonds downtown bottleneck

  • Fri Jan 15th, 2010 11:05pm
  • News

By Oscar Halpert Herald Writer

EDMONDS — Getting to and from this city’s waterfront — long a bottleneck for travelers and pedestrians alike — could get somewhat easier by early next year.

That’s when Sound Transit expects to complete a $12.9 million renovation of the city’s rail station, Edmonds Station, at 210 Railroad Ave.

It’s also when the agency will complete a new bus shelter that is expected to allow Community Transit buses to pick up and drop off passengers at a single location between the ferry terminal and station. Right now, people get on and off the bus at two stops that are a block apart.

Construction on the two projects is expected to begin in March.

Sound Transit, which provides Sounder commuter trains, shares the station with Amtrak.

Planned upgrades should help centralize and smooth connections between bus, train and ferry connections in the heart of the city, officials say.

Those improvements, which will include new lighting, four new shelters and 520 feet of additional platform, are welcome news to most city officials, who’ve been anxiously awaiting a spruced-up train station.

It’s not the ideal solution city leaders envisioned with Edmonds Crossing, however.

That proposed $263 million regional project would have combined ferry, bus and train traffic in a single location farther south along the waterfront of the existing ferry terminal.

City leaders essentially opted to shelve the project last year after Washington State Ferries, the lead agency on the project, decided to focus its limited dollars on maintaining existing facilities.

“As long as we can put cars on the ferry and not suffer here in Edmonds with the waiting automobiles, I don’t really see a need to build an entirely new ferry dock,” said City Council President Steve Bernheim. “If we’re trying to save money, let’s keep the ferry dock where it is right now and plan for it to stay there.”

Sound Transit also plans to build the bus shelter, adjacent to railroad tracks between James and Main streets, half a block north of the train station.

The agency doesn’t provide Sound Transit Express regional buses in Edmonds but has agreed to build the shelter for Community Transit.

That puts a bus stop closer to the ferry terminal than existing bus stops along Railroad Avenue, said Community Transit spokesman Martin Mungia.

“One of the ideas with this new location would be to allow all of the buses to come into the same proximate location,” closer to trains and ferries, he said. “No matter which mode you’re taking, it’ll be more convenient for you.”

Eric Beckman, a Sound Transit rail program manager, said his agency will build one new platform at the station. A second platform, west toward Railroad Avenue, will be added after Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway builds a second set of tracks, he said.

Many of the traffic bottlenecks near the waterfront happen because passenger and freight trains share a single set of tracks, said Stephen Clifton, the city’s community development director.

New tracks would open up the flow of trains through the city. Double-track rail exists along selected portions of the rail line between Everett and Seattle — though not in Edmonds.

“It’s like two lanes of highway versus one lane,” said Gus Melonas, BNSF spokesman.

The freight train company has completed design work and will begin grading work along a 1.9-mile stretch of rail line. The grading work lays the foundation for the new tracks.

“We expect to begin this project, possibly as early as the beginning of February,” he said.

Construction of the new tracks will likely happen in 2011 or 2012, Melonas said.

Oscar Halpert: 425-339-3429, ohalpert@heraldnet.com.