Ferry lane grows one-mile longer

  • By Chris Fyall Enterprise editor
  • Friday, September 5, 2008 1:28pm

Increased ferry traffic is behind two changes to one of Edmonds’ busiest roads.

A one-mile ferry holding lane extension and intersection improvements at Pine Street should reduce congestion and collisions, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The changes will cost $22,000 and should be completed before October.

Crews have already started on the longer holding lane. New striping and signage will extend it east to 15th Street Southwest along State Route 104, which is called Sunset Avenue in downtown and Edmonds Way throughout the rest of the city. Currently, the ferry holding lane begins on Sunset Avenue near Fifth Avenue South.

The new holding lanes will be carved from the existing right lanes, according to the DOT.

Over 600,000 vehicles line up to wait for a ferry during the summer months, said traffic engineer Mike Swires, with the DOT.

Backups sometimes stretch to 100th Avenue West in Westgate, blocking homes and businesses.

The holding lane should help manage the traffic better, so it will not block driveways, officials said.

“This has been a long time in coming. We are really excited to see it done,” Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson said. “When the ferry traffic gets back up so far, up to Westgate, folks cannot get out of their driveways.”

Haakenson also hopes that traffic will now travel slower on the one-lane SR 104, he said.

“It’s a side effect, but by narrowing the lane, it should slow traffic down,” he said. “That should make it safer for everybody.”

In addition to the ferry lane, the state will restrict turns onto and off of Pine Street at Sunset Avenue. A curve in SR 104 limits visibility for westbound drivers on Pine Street, which is a safety hazard, according to the DOT.

Once the work is finished, drivers traveling north on SR 104 will only be able to turn right onto eastbound Pine Street. Drivers heading west on Pine Street will be able to turn right to head north on SR 104 but will not be able to turn left onto SR 104. To head south on SR 104, they’ll need to use city streets to such as 5th Ave S to access SR 104 at another location. On the west side of the intersection, new striping will restrict eastbound drivers on Pine Street from crossing SR 104.

Between 2005 and 2007 there were nine collisions at the intersection. Five collisions involved a westbound vehicle from Pine Street being struck by a westbound vehicle on SR 104. The turn restrictions will reduce the risk of collisions at this intersection, according to the statement.

“This intersection is within a curve and at the bottom of a hill, making it hard for drivers to judge when they can safely make a turn or cross the highway,” said Swires, with the DOT. “This is a chance to provide significant safety benefits with very few negative effects on drivers.”

Washington State Ferries has planned for years to build a new ferry terminal — called Edmonds Crossing — near Pine Street to reduce traffic impacts on Edmonds and enhance transit options. But the November 2007 election and financial difficulties with WSF have dealt a serious blow to that effort.

During the spring and summer months, ridership on the Edmonds-Kingston route increases by 21 percent, according to the DOT. The new, longer ferry lane will provide a safe place to store long lines of vehicles waiting for the ferry during peak season, according to a statement.

Drivers can expect single-lane daytime closures during the work.

Crews need dry, warm weather for striping, and scheduled the improvements for September to avoid disrupting summer traffic on SR 104.

Reporter Chris Fyall: 425-673-6525 or cfyall@heraldnet.com

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