EDMONDS — It’s not the grand, $171 million train station, ferry terminal and bus stop envisioned for so many years, but it’s an improvement nonetheless.
People riding Sounder commuter trains from the Edmonds Amtrak station have four new shelters to keep them dry in the rain. They have new, longer boarding platforms, better lighting and repaved parking lots. A separate area has been created for bus riders at the north end of the property with two new shelters.
“This is just fantastic. I was just marveling at it,” Sounder rider Juliet Kristjanson of Edmonds said while waiting for a train Tuesday morning.
Sound Transit last week finished work on a $12.9 million remodel of passenger waiting areas and parking at the station at 211 Railroad Ave., near the Edmonds waterfront. Riders of Sound Transit and Amtrak trains share the property.
Another platform could be added across the railroad tracks if a second track is added by Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad in the future.
About 220 people ride the Sounder from Edmonds every weekday, nearly matching Everett’s 240, Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said. About 120 people board at Mukilteo.
When plans for the new terminal, known as Edmonds Crossing, faltered for lack of funds, Edmonds officials decided to act.
“Sound Transit had the money committed to this (downtown) station and we wanted to make sure they spent it before they took it back,” former Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson said. Last year, Haakenson left the mayor’s office to become an executive director for Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, who also is chairman of the Sound Transit Board of Directors.
“We needed a station regardless of what happened with Edmonds Crossing,” Haakenson said.
More than 20 years ago, Edmonds city officials hatched plans for a regional transportation hub at the site of the former Unocal oil tank farm near the south end of the Edmonds waterfront.
A new ferry terminal would include a bridge over the tracks so drivers could board without waiting for trains to rumble past, city leaders said. It would get ferry traffic out of downtown Edmonds and open up the city’s central waterfront and ferry holding lanes to other uses.
The plan depended on cleaning up the polluted tank farm. Originally planned for the 1990s, the cleanup was held up in part by staffing problems at the state Department of Ecology. It finally began in 2001 but still likely has a couple of more years to go, said David South, a senior engineer for the ecology department.
“These big sites take a long time because they operated a long time,” he said — in Unocal’s case, nearly 70 years.
Meanwhile, estimates for Edmonds Crossing continued to escalate, eventually reaching $171 million.
Then the state ran out of money for new ferry terminals. The ferry system had to take four aging vessels out of service in 2007 following an investigation by The Herald in which the boats were found to be unsafe. Confronted with the daunting prospect of rebuilding its fleet, it put off plans to build new terminals into the distant future.
After this, Edmonds officials decided to act. Sound Transit had money available for improvements at the downtown station, with the idea that all the parts except the platform could be moved to Edmonds Crossing if it were ever to materialize.
So in 2009, Edmonds officials asked Sound Transit to dust off its plans for sprucing up the station, and the agency agreed.
The two parking lots have been repaved with improved drainage. It cost 34 spaces, bringing the total down to about 150, but the previous lot was filled only to 58 percent of its capacity on average, Gray said.
Also, he said many riders said they wanted easier bus connections, and the new bus turnaround area and shelters took out some of the former parking.
Before construction, the pavement was old and cracked and many of the spaces were often unusable because of standing water after rainstorms, Kristjanson said.
“There used to be floods in here,” she said.
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