The Rucker Renewal project, which is nearing completion after months of work, means southbound drivers on Rucker Avenue will no longer be able to enter the Everett Public Library parking garage on the north-south street because of a median strip. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

The Rucker Renewal project, which is nearing completion after months of work, means southbound drivers on Rucker Avenue will no longer be able to enter the Everett Public Library parking garage on the north-south street because of a median strip. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Change in habit: Rucker Avenue project alters library access

With new median strip included in streetscape work, some drivers need a different route to parking.

As barriers begin coming down, we’re getting a peek at Everett’s Rucker Renewal project, and what it means for mobility downtown. Along with fewer traffic lanes on part of the north-south street, another change will alter drivers’ access to the Everett Public Library parking garage.

It’s a small thing, yes. Even so, many library users, particularly those from Everett’s Northwest Neighborhood, will need to break longtime habits.

No longer will southbound drivers be able to turn left on Rucker into the garage. And cars exiting the library garage onto Rucker must turn right — they can’t go south — before heading north or turning onto Everett Avenue.

A new median strip on the boulevard-style section of Rucker blocks turns that were previously possible.

Options include entering the library garage from its Everett Avenue entrance, or for drivers going south on Rucker, turning east onto Everett Avenue, then circling the block via Hoyt Avenue and California Street to enter the garage from Rucker’s northbound lane.

“It’s a change in habit,” said Ryan Sass, Everett’s public works director.

Sass said the Everett Avenue entrance has had signage indicating it’s for delivery and oversize vehicles. New signs are likely coming. The Everett Avenue entry point “is a public entrance,” said Abby Cooley, Everett Public Library director. “We recognize that the signage could be updated to make this clearer to any visitor.”

A pedestrian walks past the west entrance to the Everett Public Library parking garage Wednesday. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

A pedestrian walks past the west entrance to the Everett Public Library parking garage Wednesday. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

The city’s downtown streetscape plan, adopted by the City Council in 2009, is creating a prettier, more walkable area. With curb bulbs at the corners, mid-block crossings and wide sidewalks, part of Rucker north of Hewitt Avenue was designed to be safer for pedestrians.

“It should greatly improve safety,” Cooley said. Planning for the Rucker project happened before she arrived on the job two years ago.

Cooley said she heard some grumbling about garage access when sections of Rucker, Hoyt, Wall Street and California were closed for the work earlier this year. Since part of Rucker reopened recently, “we haven’t received any complaints,” she said.

Some business owners aired complaints about loss of revenue during the street closures in a Dec. 14 article by Herald writers Janice Podsada and Ben Watanabe. When the streets closed in July, the goal was to have the work finished by year’s end. Complications have pushed completion of the project, with an estimated cost of $9.6 million, to spring of 2020.

Across from the Everett Public Library, a jogger runs south along a restyled section of Rucker Avenue this week. The Rucker Renewal project is intended to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, with wide sidewalks and other features. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Across from the Everett Public Library, a jogger runs south along a restyled section of Rucker Avenue this week. The Rucker Renewal project is intended to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, with wide sidewalks and other features. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Sass said a downtown plan dating to about 2008 “morphed into” Metro Everett. That’s a planning process for development in more than a square mile, including the downtown business district, the Everett Station area and parts of the Broadway corridor.

Now with hundreds of housing units, “the goal is to make core blocks pedestrian-friendly,” Sass said.

Drivers accustomed to using Rucker as their main north-south arterial will find fewer lanes once the street reopens. A lane of traffic in each direction is gone in the affected part of Rucker north of Hewitt, where there will be angled rather than parallel parking.

With one northbound lane gone on Rucker, there are now two left-turn lanes onto Pacific Avenue. The city is encouraging northbound drivers to use West Marine View Drive.

As library users change old habits, Cooley looks forward to improvements outside. Just maybe, more people will walk to the library.

“This is my personal view — with a growing city there are growing pains, to make us a better city in the future,” Cooley said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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