EDMONDS — The goal is to solve a problem that has plagued the downtown area for decades.
Trains, auto and ferry traffic all converge into a bottleneck near the city’s waterfront. City officials say passing rail traffic — now more than 40 trains a day — block waterfront access for about 90 minutes daily. Each year some 3.8 million people either drive or walk onto the Edmonds-Kingston ferry.
A 12-member waterfront access advisory group appointed by Mayor Dave Earling has been working on suggestions for how to solve the problem. The group will update the public during a meeting scheduled from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Edmonds Library.
Building an overpass, underpass or trench to allow vehicles to bypass the train tracks “is a potential mega project,” said Cadence Clyborne, a member of the waterfront access committee. Yet it’s often hard to get the public interested in planning early in the process, she said. “The best way to do that is to have people come and voice their opinions,” she said.
The group held its first update for the public in November to get suggestions on what concepts to consider, said Mike Nelson, an Edmonds city councilman who is co-chair of the waterfront access study group. The suggestions included an overpass, underpass, modifications to the railroad itself, on-site improvements, trying to change the schedule of trains, and changes to the ferry terminal, he said.
Among the concerns they have to balance is whether a proposal would improve the ability of emergency services to access the waterfront area west of the railroad tracks or whether it would reduce delays in ferry loading and unloading, Nelson said. Both emergency services and ferry traffic can be delayed by passing trains.
“We all know what we have down there now is sort of disorganized,” Earlng said. The railroad tracks are used by Sounder trains, Amtrak, and BNSF. Train traffic can block access to the ferry terminal. “I’ve seen ferries have to wait,” he said.
Safety is an important piece of planning for improvements, Earling said, since a number of people walk across the tracks either going to or leaving the ferry terminal.
Clyborne, who also serves as president of a business group, the Edmonds Downtown Alliance, said local merchants are concerned about how any proposed changes could affect their business. “The ferry traffic brings more people into town,” Clyborne said.
The advisory group hopes to have its list of alternatives for fixing the problem done in the summer, Nelson said.
Edmonds has a total of $690,000 to spend on the traffic planning project. The state kicked in $500,000, the city $100,000, $25,000 came from the Port of Edmonds, $50,000 from BNSF Railway, $5,000 from Community Transit and $10,000 from Sound Transit.
Tetra Tech, a Seattle consulting firm, has been hired to work with the advisory group. The firm also will work with four other companies 0n tasks such as engineering, environmental reviews, railroad issues, and the design of whatever plan is finally adopted.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.
An open house is scheduled from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Edmonds Library, 650 Main St., to update the public on the city’s waterfront access study. The group will recommend ways to alleviate the downtown traffic issues near the waterfront. The public also can comment online on the project until Feb. 12 at edmondswaterfrontaccess.publicmeeting.info