It’s a great walk — except for one hair-raising spot. Seven years ago, that’s how I described a place where I often felt unsafe on my favorite Everett pedestrian route.
“Ask anyone who has walked from Legion to the waterfront,” I wrote in a Herald column published Jan. 6, 2012. “Getting to the sidewalk along West Marine View Drive requires a terrifying dash across four lanes of traffic.”
Although the speed limit is 35 miles per hour, drivers along what’s essentially an extension of Highway 529 often go a lot faster.
Now there’s good news — and good for the city of Everett for making it so.
On Monday, as traffic whooshed past, I stood along West Marine View Drive near the north end of Alverson Boulevard and American Legion Memorial Park. I pushed a button. Immediately, a robotic voice — louder than loud — barked out this: “Yellow lights are flashing.”
The city’s newest crosswalk opened at Alverson and West Marine View Drive last week. Pedestrians and bicyclists now have safer access to the waterfront and what new signs call the Mill Town Trail, a six-mile loop around Everett’s peninsula.
“The growing waterfront district is one of the city’s greatest assets, and the Alverson crossing is an important connection to it from north Everett,” said Ryan Sass, Everett’s public works director.
The crossing features a solar-powered, push-button-activated rectangular rapid flashing beacon. The device, according to the Federal Highway Administration, is a less costly alternative to a traffic signal that increases driver yielding behavior compared with standard crosswalk markings.
More improvements are planned for later this year. They include a raised median island and an asphalt landing on the intersection’s south side.
It wasn’t the most leisurely stroll to the water side of West Marine View Drive — there’s no sidewalk on the bluff side — but cars stopped for me Monday afternoon. White crosswalk markings are boldly painted on the road, and a yellow pedestrian sign and arrows show that it’s a place for walkers.
Compared with past devil-may-care dashes, Monday’s crossing felt a lot safer.
Final costs for the project aren’t yet known, said Kathleen Baxter, a spokeswoman for Everett’s public works department. Materials, including the beacon system, signs, plastic pavement markings and sidewalk modifications, so far total $21,900.
“We anticipate final cost to be near $35,000,” Baxter said. A safety grant, awarded to the city through a state pedestrian and bicycle program, will pay for installation of the permanent crossing.
“There has been much public interest in this crossing,” Baxter said by email Tuesday.
The number I was interested in is how much time a walker is allowed to cross. How long do lights flash once the button is pushed?
“The yellow lights flash for 27 seconds,” Baxter said. For most, that’s probably enough time to see whether vehicles are stopping and walk across, curb to curb. If it’s not, pressing the button in the median adds another 27 seconds to the flashing time.
Baxter said the city has conducted a pedestrian count at the intersection. It was determined that there are about 90 West Marine View Drive crossings at Alverson per day. “As pedestrian and bicycle demand increases with developments like the Port of Everett Waterfront District, the need will continue to grow for an enhanced crossing,” Baxter said.
With a gorgeous park at the top of the bluff and what’s becoming a lively waterfront below, a safe pedestrian connection couldn’t come soon enough.
It’s now here, while the pedestrian bridge linking Grand Avenue Park to the waterfront isn’t expected to open until 2020.
My January 2012 crosswalk plea began with a reference to “this season of resolutions.” I can’t vow to walk to the waterfront daily, but now there are fewer excuses.