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Edmonds Mayor Proposes Waterfront Underpass As a Public Safety Issue

At the "Don't Block Our Beach" rally: Edmonds looking for access to the waterfront, which is in danger with increased train traffic.

On Wednesday’s “Don’t Block Our Beach” rally, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling made it clear he was not on hand to protest the proposed shipping terminal at Cherry Point in Whatcom County, which would dramatically increase the number of trains transporting coal through Puget Sound.

"If you're here for a rally centered on the coal trains, you're at the wrong rally,” he told more than 200 people gathered on the grassy area at Brackett’s Landing South.

Instead, Earling said the rally—backed by the City of Edmonds, Chamber of Commerce, South County Senior Center, Port of Edmonds, Sustainable Edmonds and Snohomish County Fire District 1—was created to draw attention to safety issues associated with increased train traffic and a plan to construct an underpass for ferry and emergency vehicle traffic.

Indeed, Earling made it clear that Edmonds is looking to attain unfettered access to the waterfront. "Rail traffic is projected to increase to up to 100 trains per day by 2030. Some of these trains will be more than a mile long. This situation would impose unacceptable limits on waterfront access and be catastrophic for our town."

as being against SSA Marine’s efforts to export bulk commodities of coal. Last year, the , as well.

The mayor pointed to several businesses and areas west of the railroad tracks that would be significantly affected by long waits for trains to pass: the Edmonds Underwater Park (“We lose a diver every year or two”); the Edmonds Ferry terminal; the South County Senior Center; and the Port of Edmonds and marina.

An underpass constructed to address the public safety issue is one that Earling says he has discussed with legislators in Districts 21 and 32, Sen. Maria Cantwell (who lives in Edmonds), Sen. Patty Murray, Paula Hammond of the Washington State Ferries, the chairs of both the House and Senate transportation committees, and others.

“They all get it,” Earling told the crowd. “They understand the conflict we have here. If you don’t know, the ferry here, the port here (are located at) the only at-grade crossing where we conflict between the ferries and rails. That doesn’t happen anywhere else in ferry system.”

The idea of an underpass, which would be used for ferry and emergency vehicle traffic (police, fire, ambulance), is not a new one in Edmonds. Marko Liias, a state representative and Edmonds native, told the crowd that he discussed the idea with former Mayor Gary Haakenson four years ago.

Earling said his proposal is somewhat similar to one undertaken in Bremerton a few years ago under Public Works director Phil Williams. Williams is now Public Works director for Edmonds.

Earling, who is working with David Evans and Associates on the underpass plan, estimated the cost at between $60 and $80 million.

Larry Vogel July 12, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Looking at the aerial mockup of the Mayor's proposal, I don't see any provision for enhanced general vehicular access to the waterfront. It appears that the tunnel would serve ferry traffic and emergency access, but leaves general vehicular access to the two present at-grade crossings at Dayton and Main. Is this correct? If so, the projected 20-year increase in train traffic will create major problems for the general public in accessing the senior center, marina, port offices, parks, restaurants and other amenities on west side of the tracks. I urge the City to include discussion on how to mitigate this as the project moves forward.
Gary Shinn July 12, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I thought there was a water table issue on the waterfront. Remember the discussion about the development of the old Skipper's property and the inability to build underground parking? Does that cause an engineering problem for an underpass?
one opinion July 15, 2012 at 07:51 PM
What about transit traffic? Is it impractical to elevate the train for the segment through Edmonds?

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