Edmonds has big plans for its Highway 99 improvements

EDMONDS — The end of two-way center turn lanes. Adding designated spots for making left turns.

Wider sidewalks with greenbelts separating walkers from the nearby busy roadway.

Marked pedestrian crossings with yellow flashing lights to increase safety.

These are some of the changes that could be coming to the 2.25 miles of Highway 99, which cuts diagonally through Edmonds. The roadway is used by 40,000 cars and trucks a day.

Nearby Shoreline completed a similar upgrade to Highway 99 last year. That project, along three miles of the highway, cost about $140 million and took about a decade to complete.

The goal of the project was to improve safety for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists, but it also spurred economic development, said Dan Eernissee, the city’s economic development manager.

The improvements include dedicated bus transit lanes that also can be used for short distances by cars making right hand turns into businesses, and designated spots to make left turns.

Utilities, including power, cable, phone and sewer lines, are now underground, rather than cluttering the landscape.

Construction of the Interurban Trail through Shoreline was completed, with pedestrian bridges over N 155th Street and over Aurora Avenue near N 158th Street.

Landscaping was added to provide more of a buffer between pedestrians and the highway.

“We have seen that by doing these improvements we have fostered development along Highway 99,” Eernissee said. About 1,000 new housing units have been built, most of which are rentals.

Edmonds was able to start plans for similar improvements with help from the Legislature. Lawmakers approved giving the city $1 million to get started several years earlier than originally planned.

That’s the first down payment on $10 million pledged thus far by the state for the project.

Edmonds has seen some of the changes made by Shoreline, such as designating spots for left turns and U-turns, said Phil Williams, public works director.

In Edmonds, the current center two-way turn lanes have caused increasing numbers of sideswipe collisions, and likely will be a focus of what steps can be taken to improve safety, he said.

Intersection improvements could come to the 216th, 220th and 224th Street SW intersections, Williams said.

A traffic signal and pedestrian crossing with a flashing beacon could to be added at 234th Street SW near the Community Health Center of Snohomish County’s Edmonds office.

It’s roughly the midway point in a stretch of about 3,700 feet along Highway 99 where there are no traffic signals at intersections for pedestrians to cross the highway, said Shane Hope, the city’s development services director.

A draft plan with suggestions on what kind of improvements should be made, and what project would be the first to be completed, is expected by early next year.

At its Sept. 5 meeting, the Edmonds City Council is expected to approve a $467,517 consulting contract with SCJ Alliance in Lacey to come up with a transportation improvement plan. Developers have heard of the city’s goal of making improvements along Highway 99, designed to be paired with a recently approved plan for the corridor.

“They understand what the long-term impact could be and could take advantage of it,” said Mayor Dave Earling.

The city projects as many as 3,325 more housing units and 3,013 more jobs will be needed in the corridor by 2035.

Transportation improvements — “that’s the key,” Earling said, as well as finding ways to make a busy streetscape become a neighborhood.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

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