Edmonds sees overpass as best waterfront traffic option

EDMONDS — After more than a year of study, the city has settled on an idea to ensure that trains won’t block emergency access to the city’s waterfront.

What’s proposed is a single-lane, $24 million overpass from the intersection of Edmonds Street and Sunset Avenue over the railroad tracks leading down to Brackett’s Landing North and Railroad Avenue.

Its purpose is to provide a way for police and fire crews to respond to emergencies when trains block waterfront access at Main and Dayton streets.

Structures would be installed on the roadway to block its daily use by trucks and cars. The barriers would be lowered to allow emergency responders to access the waterfront.

In an emergency, such as an accident involving a train that can leave it sitting on the track for hours, arriving ferry traffic could use the connector to leave the terminal.

The overpass also would provide a way for walkers and bicyclists to cross the railroad tracks more safely than they can now, with traffic boarding or departing from the nearby Edmonds-Kingston ferry.

“This appears to be the project that provides substantial benefit with the least impact,” said Patrick Doherty, the city’s Economic Development & Community Services director.

It provides the fastest way for police and the fire department staff to respond to the waterfront and the least visual impact of all the options considered except one — an underpass. The estimated cost of $357 million put it out of consideration, said Edmonds City Councilman Mike Nelson. He was a member of the team that studied various waterfront access options for 13 months.

The Edmonds waterfront is heavily used, with its parks, restaurants, dive park, and ferry terminal, said City Councilman Dave Teitzel. If a train is involved in an accident, it’s required to stop until the investigation is complete, he said. That can block emergency access to the waterfront for hours.

That’s what happened in the spring, when a man was hit by a train in an apparent suicide. A woman went into labor on the beach side of the tracks, Doherty said. They had to pass her through an empty train car to get her medical attention.

“We’ve had delays of up to four-and-and-half hours,” said Mayor Dave Earling.

Over time, the numbers of passing trains and cars using the ferry are expected to increase. It may take five years to find the money for the overpass project and to build it but “it will be even more needed than it is now,” Doherty said.

City Councilwoman Diane Buckshnis said that the waterfront access issue has been discussed since she first was elected to the council six years ago. “It’s time to start looking for the funding now,” she said.

The cost of design, engineering, permitting and environmental studies is expected to hit at least $800,000 and take 12 to 18 months to complete, Doherty said.

The city plans to request a federal grant for the project next month, and anticipates setting aside at least $150,000 for the project in the city’s budget next year, he said.

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

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