Meeting in Edmonds a chance to weigh emergency access plans

EDMONDS — The city’s traffic bottlenecks aren’t just caused by the queue of cars waiting to get to the ferry terminal.

The city’s waterfront area also is dissected by railroad tracks. When the signature long whistle of oncoming trains signal the lowering of crossing gates, the waterfront is sealed off from incoming and outgoing car traffic.

Usually, that’s a matter of minutes. But when a train breaks down or stops on the tracks because of an emergency, people can be trapped for hours. Emergency responders struggle to get to the scene.

That’s why an advisory group was named a year ago to study ways to solve the problem. The group has narrowed its list to 11 proposals. The final open house to give people a chance to review and comment on the ideas is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Edmonds Library.

The proposals fall into three basic groups, said Patrick Doherty, the city’s director of economic development and community services. They are:

Providing only pedestrian and bike access via an overpass or an underpass to the waterfront with an aid car and fire station established on the west side of the tracks;

Building a single-lane roadway on an overpass to provide access to emergency vehicles, bicycle and pedestrian access to the waterfront; or

Building an overpass or underpass to the ferry terminal. That could include moving the ferry terminal or reviving a previous Edmonds Crossing plan to move the terminal to the south near the pedestrian bridge at Marina Beach Park.

Rough estimates of the cost of the projects range from $20 million for the pedestrian-only bridge plan to $250 million or more for moving the ferry terminal.

At the open house, people will have the opportunity to see full descriptions of all the proposals, ask questions and leave comments. There will be a formal presentation on the proposals at the meeting.

For years, trains, auto and ferry traffic converging within a few blocks of the waterfront area have created major traffic jams. Each year some 3.8 million people either drive or walk onto the Edmonds-Kingston ferry. City officials say as many as 40 trains that roll through Edmonds daily, blocking waterfront access for about 90 minutes.

An accident in the spring was a reminder of how access to the waterfront can be cut off for hours and slow emergency responders. On April 19, a pedestrian died after running onto the railroad tracks as a train was approaching.

It tied up traffic for nearly three hours. With the train stopped on the tracks, no one could either access or leave the waterfront area. There were two medical emergencies, a woman about to deliver a baby and an injured child who needed medical attention.

The advisory committee on the traffic issue, which was appointed by Mayor Dave Earling, is expected to make its final recommendation on a plan the city should pursue in about a month, Doherty said.

Earling will review the plan and then make a recommendation to the city council on what steps the city should take on the traffic issue.

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

Open house

The final open house for an advisory committee working on solutions for increased access to the city’s waterfront is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Edmonds Library’s Plaza Room, 650 Main St. Some meeting materials will be available online prior to the meeting and additional information will be added afterward. People may also leave comments on the project at the website: http://bit.ly/2csE4KC

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