Merchants balk at medians

By Theresa Goffredo

Herald Writer

EVERETT — Kelly and Michael Locking run Shawn’s Quality Produce, a fourth-generation business on Evergreen Way.

But lately, the couple’s sons are wondering what they will do for the rest of their lives once the business closes.

And the business will be forced to close, they say, if Everett follows through on plans to install center medians along a section of Evergreen Way, blocking delivery trucks from reaching the produce wholesaler.

"This is all they’ve ever done," Locking said Wednesday of her two sons. "This means closing the doors for us, the day the median goes up."

Locking is not alone in her concern. She is one of several business owners who implored Everett City Council members Wednesday to reconsider their plan to install center medians on Evergreen Way between Airport Road and 112th Street SW.

In 1978, the city declared that Evergreen Way needed to be widened to seven lanes to improve safety and traffic flow. Since then, the city has been working on the road and has improved about five miles of it.

Shawn’s Produce is just one of 48 businesses along that stretch of Evergreen Way, many of which claim they will be adversely affected by the center medians and will either have to close their doors or be forced to make significant layoffs, say Locking and other business owners.

Dennis Matheson Sr., owner of Chuck’s Chevron and Service Center, which started business in Everett in 1939, said he anticipates the center medians would reduce his customers by 20 percent and possibly up to 40 percent. Should that happen, Matheson estimated a payroll reduction of about $200,000 a year. The business employs about 20 people.

"Gasoline is a convenience item, and center medians make it inconvenient for customers," Matheson said.

The business owners have banded together into a neighborhood group called the South Everett Merchant Association and hired a consultant, Cottingham Transportation Engineering of Shoreline, which Wednesday presented the council with an option that would not include center medians.

"There’s no positive evidence that says center medians make any difference," said consultant Ken Cottingham in a telephone interview after Wednesday’s meeting. "These raised medians are not in the highway design standards."

After hearing from business owners and their consultant, council members decided not to make any decision Wednesday on the center medians. Instead, they plan on setting up a meeting with business owners, the city and state Department of Transportation officials to try and arrive at a compromise.

One council member, Ron Gipson, strongly objected to the medians.

"This is affecting these businesses, and they will be hurt, some way, somehow, by putting these in," Gipson said.

For the 48 businesses, a local improvement district was formed in December 1999 to help pay for safety and traffic-flow improvements. At that time, there was no plan to add center medians.

Since then, state transportation officials have required that center medians be installed for safety reasons. Also, the city has received an additional $266,000 from the state and the county and now no longer needs money from the business owners to make the improvements. The total cost is estimated at $1.5 million.

The property owners say they never objected paying for improvements to the road, but they certainly oppose the medians.

Russ Miller owns Sure Would Inc., a family-owned business that for 24 years has sold landscaping supplies and gravel and runs a fleet of a dozen trucks. He said installing center medians means those trucks, which are 70 feet long, would no longer have a place to stage in the middle of Evergreen Way before entering the business.

Because of that, the majority of Sure Would’s truck traffic would have to be diverted through a neighborhood, past a residential home for seniors and an elementary school.

"It boils down to our existence," said Miller, who employs 19 people. "We’ve built a business here, and to put us out of business, it’s hard to choke."

You can call Herald Writer Theresa Goffredo at 425-339-3097

or send e-mail to goffredo@heraldnet.com.

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