Yawn-inducing sewer plan conceals a jawdropper

It’s the biggest thing to happen in my neighborhood since actress Parker Posey strolled down Everett’s Rucker Avenue during the 2013 filming of “The Architect.” It has none of the celebrity-gawking appeal of moviemaking, but Everett’s “Sewer M” project finally has my attention.

Streets are blocked. There are work crews, heavy equipment and piles of dirt near Grand Avenue Park and elsewhere along my walking route. Piled on the grass in some work areas are rusted and misshapen old pipes that have been unearthed, and massive new pipes to be installed as part of the sewer upgrade.

We’ve known it was coming. In December, Herald writer Chris Winters let readers know about Everett’s Comprehensive Sewer Plan, a decade-long program to boost capacity, fix deteriorating pipes, resolve basement flooding issues, upgrade the treatment plant, and reduce discharges of untreated waste into Port Gardner.

The city also has mailed details about its $18 million “Sewer M” project, part of the comprehensive plan, to residents of the Northwest Neighborhood, where I live.

Don’t nod off yet. Sewage isn’t sexy, but there’s more to the overall plan than pipes and improved environmental practices. There’s something fun — a new Grand Avenue Park pedestrian bridge to the waterfront.

According to a city website covering all aspects of the “Sewer M” project, the Grand Avenue Park Bridge “will allow the conveyance of drainage and sewer flows from the neighborhood across the bluff, railroad yard and West Marine View Drive. It will also be a pedestrian bridge connecting the neighborhood with Everett’s waterfront area.”

What a great addition to a place I visit almost daily. So many times I have walked through Grand Avenue Park, gazed down at the waterfront, and wished for a quick and safe way to get there.

The $10 million pedestrian bridge was mentioned in The Herald’s Dec. 5 article, but somehow I missed it. And because the topic was a sewer project — yawn — I skipped a March meeting the city hosted to address questions neighbors might have before work began.

Out walking my dog Oscar the other day, I saw old pipes that workers had dug up. Were they sewer pipes? Were they still in use?

I called Marla Carter, spokeswoman for the Everett Public Works Department, to ask about those dilapidated pipes and whether workers had found any unexpected treasures or oddities so far during their big dig. Carter said the old pipes were ancient water lines, no longer in use, that were made of cast iron. And under the surface of 15th Street, she said, workers found old clay pipes, some still in good shape.

My house was built in 1909. Carter said the old pipes were original to the neighborhood.

Explaining the first phase of the “M” project, she said workers are adding a new drainage pipe network to separate storm runoff from the sewage collection system. The goals are to prevent the area’s chronic basement flooding and combined sewer overflows into Port Gardner, along with replacing the old sewer collection pipes.

“The Grand Avenue Park Bridge is being built as a utility project,” Carter said.

Now being designed by the KPFF Consulting Engineers firm, the bridge will be at the park’s north end, near the intersection of Grand and 16th Street.

It will take pedestrians from the park to the waterfront near Lombardi’s Italian Restaurant and the Everett Farmers Market site.

The bridge design, which Carter said won’t block views, will include a drainage pipe to carry stormwater into the bay.

In May, she said, the city may have initial drawings of the bridge to share with the public.

A schedule on the city’s website shows construction starting next year and the pedestrian bridge being finished in 2017.

It’s not a Hollywood movie, but in my neighborhood that footbridge is show-stopping news. Our utility bills are higher, but a walk to the waterfront might ease some pain.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

The city of Everett has information online about its “Sewer M” project, now under construction in the Northwest Neighborhood. See maps, schedules and more at: https://everettwa.gov/377/Sewer-System-Improvements-M-Project

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