EDMONDS — After at least seven years spent reviewing 50 different ideas, the city of Edmonds is no closer to building its Waterfront Connector — and the project’s future is uncertain.
The Edmonds City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday evening to end the estimated $27.5 million endeavor early in the design phase.
The one-lane access bridge, linking Sunset Avenue to Brackett’s Landing North near the ferry terminal, would have provided emergency services a route over the railroad tracks when stopped trains block access to the ferry dock, beaches and marina.
On the table was a $2.3 million supplemental agreement to continue the connector project design to 60 percent completion. Instead, the safety conundrum along the railroad tracks remains unanswered.
“Right now, we are back to square one,” said Phil Williams, the city’s public works director. “It will take more conversation and more work with the council to design another strategy for how to improve our emergency access.”
City Councilman Mike Nelson made the motion to end further studies of the connector. Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis, Neil Tibbott and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, the council president, voted with Nelson to support the motion.
“When we sit here championing that it is more safe to do this, I am just not buying it and I don’t think it’s a top priority,” Nelson said.
Nelson and Tibbott, along with Councilwoman Kristiana Johnson, who voted the other way, are all running for Edmonds mayor. Buckshnis is also up for city council re-election this fall.
Attempts to amend Nelson’s motion by Councilman Dave Teitzel to take the design process to 30 percent and evaluate the results of an environmental assessment failed with four no votes.
The council’s decision came before the public comment section of the meeting, leaving some attendees upset.
“You didn’t hear anyone from the actual community,” one woman shouted.
Fraley-Monillas said the council already knew the opinions of the people. She said prior to the meeting she received 400 emails, the vast majority opposing the connector.
Critics of the project cited environmental impact, cost and blocked views as reasons for their discontent.
They packed the chamber, exceeding the facility’s maximum capacity, and pouring into the hallways. Chants of “save our beach” were audible throughout the meeting.
In a Facebook post, the recently formed group Save Edmonds Beach said Tuesday’s result was “a great win.” However, the group vowed to continue fighting, by collecting petition signatures and increasing their influence prior to election season.
“We will not declare total victory yet as you never know what kind of political maneuvering may yet happen,” the post said.
City officials said first-responders average a call a week to emergency situations west of the tracks.
Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling deemed the connector “of great importance to me in light of the primary duty as your mayor to ensure safety,” in comments before the council’s decision.
Train traffic in Edmonds is expected to increase from the approximately 40 trains passing through the town on a typical day. City officials are projecting a rise to 70 or even 100 trains per day within 15 years.
“Once we made incremental decisions to build the marina, to build the waterfront center, to build all the restaurants along our waterfront with only two access points, we were just putting off a decision for our safety,” councilmember Johnson said. “That’s a decision we don’t have today.”