Whether you walk, ride, drive or float, construction continues on a range of local and regional transportation projects throughout Snohomish County, despite COVID-19. Already, businesses are noticing the effect of some projects, and improvements still in the works are anticipated to aid commerce even more.
Everett officials cut the ribbon on the new Grand Avenue Park Bridge in a virtual ceremony. The pedestrian walkway connects the city’s Northwest neighborhood to the waterfront and the Port of Everett.
The streets of several Snohomish County cities are finding new use as pedestrian thoroughfares and outdoor markets.
Everett is trying out a new “Streatery” program that lets restaurants and businesses use the city’s outdoor parking spots for drinking and dining. To the south, Edmonds and Bothell temporarily closed some downtown streets to traffic.
The Mukilteo Ferry Terminal won’t open as planned this fall. But officials insist the wait is almost over.
Ride: Sound Transit light rail
The Northgate light rail station at 1st Avenue NE and NE 103rd Street in Seattle is to open next year.
Next stop, Lynnwood.
Construction launched a year ago on the Lynnwood Link extension, which will bring Sound Transit rail service to Snohomish County. Infrastructure to support the estimated $2.9 billion extension has sprung up along a 8½-mile stretch from Northgate to Lynnwood.
Columns to support the elevated track are in place along I-5, and a chunk of the Lynnwood Transit Center has been transformed into a construction zone for a new station.
When the rail link opens in 2024, trains will carry riders from Lynnwood to downtown Seattle in less than 30 minutes.
Between Northgate and Lynnwood, the route will include three stops: Shoreline at NE 145th Street, Shoreline at NE 185th Street, and Mountlake Terrace.
The extension is expected to be one of the line’s busiest routes, carrying up to 55,000 riders each day by 2026 or so.
Drive, then ride: Mukilteo Ferry Terminal
The new Mukilteo ferry terminal was slated to open this fall, but a COVID-19 work stoppage delayed the date. December or January is the new target.
Work on the $187 million project got under way in 2017 after years of design and environmental reviews. The site once housed a U.S. Air Force fuel depot.
The new terminal sits along the waterfront, a third of a mile east from the existing terminal, which was built in 1957. The Mukilteo-Clinton run is one of the busiest ferry routes in the state, carrying more than 4 million passengers a year across Possession Sound to Whidbey Island and back.
The project was designed to resemble a Native American longhouse and includes a new toll plaza, holding lanes, fishing pier and overhead pedestrian walkway, among other features.
Once the new station opens, the existing terminal will be torn down.
Walkers, joggers and bicyclists added the Grand Avenue Park Bridge in Everett to their route last month.
The pedestrian bridge passed a final safety inspection last week and is now open to the public.
While some minor work needs to be performed over the coming weeks, the bridge is open.
“We’ve been waiting forever for this,” said Megan Adams, who lives less than two blocks away.
The $20 million project got a virtual grand opening on YouTube. A more formal celebration will take place at a later date when it’s safe to gather, city officials said.
Walk, dine, stretch
Dining out really does mean dining out these days.
Edmonds, Bothell and Everett, to name a few local cities, have temporarily closed some streets to vehicles this summer.
With foot traffic up along some stretches, it’s been a boon to restaurants and retailers hoping to boost sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, while helping customers maintain social distance.
Edmonds was one of the first cities in Snohomish County to close some streets in its commercial district to cars and trucks.
For now it’s just a weekend thing. Main Street between Third and Sixth avenues is closed to vehicle traffic on Saturday and Sunday.
“We’d been talking during the shutdown about how we were going to reopen (businesses) and kick-start the recovery,” said Patrick Doherty, Edmond’s Economic Development and Community Services. “We thought, ‘Once we’re in Phase 2, what could we do to encourage people to come downtown and feel safer about it?’”
The city’s Walkable Main Street initiative is helping businesses boost sales.
Shubert Ho, co-owner of Salt & Iron and The Mar-Ket, said the move is a plus for customers who might otherwise stay home. “It’s a great way for us to continue to operate in a pandemic economy safely,” Ho said.
Bothell opted to close some streets 24/7 to support businesses.
Main Street and 101st Avenue NE, in the King County section, has been closed to vehicles. The streets are scheduled to reopen to vehicle traffic on Sept. 8.
City officials in Everett shut down some residential streets as part of its “Healthy Streets” initiative.
The city expanded the concept last month and began allowing restaurants and other merchants — provided they have a free permit — to expand their outdoor seating into city-owned parking stalls.
The “Streatery” program, in effect through the end of October, includes free temporary fencing, courtesy of the city.
On Rucker Avenue in downtown Everett, Maki Perry, owner of Body & Brain Yoga and Tai Chi, plans to use the extra space to offer outdoor tai chi classes.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Perry said. “I’m not a restaurant, but could I teach tai chi outside.”
Bus Rapid Transit
Planning for I-405 Bus Rapid Transit, which will add new rapid transit lines through King and Snohomish counties, is under way.
Both projects are part of the Sound Transit 3 tax plan voters approved in 2016.
The agency and state Department of Transportation propose two lines: a 37-mile line along I-405 from Lynnwood to Burien with 11 stations, and a line that runs along Highway 522 from Bothell to the light rail stations in Shoreline. The start of service for both is expected to coincide with the opening of the Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood light rail stations in 2024.
Sound Transit estimates it will take riders 45 minutes to travel from Lynnwood to Bellevue and 48 minutes between Bellevue and Burien.
Off the list?
Late last month, the Washington State Department of Transportation told the city of Marysville and Snohomish County that work on the southbound ramp from Highway 529 to I-5 in Marysville could be postponed, even as the rest of the project is built.
Northwest Region Administrator Mike Cotten said the reason is the price tag, which is now $7.2 million more than project’s original $89.4 million budget.
The project had one northbound and one southbound ramp linking the freeway and highway on Ebey Island, then the state combined it with another project to build a northbound high occupancy vehicle lane between Everett and Marysville to save money and reduce traffic.
The new plan — building part now and part later — isn’t sitting well with local officials. They expect the piecemeal approach will cost taxpayers more and frustrate drivers.
“It strikes me as penny wise and pound foolish,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers has said.
The Highway 529 and I-5 interchange was in the Connecting Washington transportation funding package passed by the Legislature in 2015. Work is planned to begin next year and conclude by late 2023.
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods