Edmonds seeks funding for overpass to waterfront

The city has a plan for ensuring emergency access to the city’s waterfront — building a $24 million overpass.

Now it’s making the case for money for the project with federal and state officials.

Last week, city representatives, including Mayor Dave Earling, flew to the nation’s capital. They explained the need for the project to representatives of the federal Department of Transportation as well as U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, staff of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, and Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Tacoma, who also represents the Olympic Peninsula.

On Wednesday, Larsen toured the area with Earling and other city officials to see where the overpass would be built.

“It’s one thing to sit in an office and hear about a project or an issue,” Larsen said. “It’s another thing to be on the ground actually being able to visualize the project and how it would work to solve the Edmonds waterfront problems.”

Larsen is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “It’s certainly is a project that will help solve a problem that comes with the amount of freight traffic that is moving north and south along the rail lines,” he said.

Accidents can cause trains to be stopped on the tracks for hours, sealing off access to the waterfront. What’s proposed is a single-lane overpass from the intersection of Edmonds Street and Sunset Avenue over the railroad tracks leading down to Brackett’s Landing North and Railroad Avenue.

The purpose is to provide a way for police and fire crews to respond to emergencies when trains block waterfront access at Main and Dayton streets. It also would offer a safer way for pedestrians and bicyclists to get to beaches, parks and restaurants.

The Edmonds City Council approved the overpass plan last month, ending a more than year-long effort to find a solution to the waterfront access issue.

Last week’s trip to Washington, D.C., was made as the city is applying for a federal grant that can pay for up to 60 percent of the project’s cost. There will be other opportunities to apply for additional federal money as well, said Patrick Doherty, the city’s economic development director.

The city also plans to ask the state for $600,000 for initial design, permitting and environmental work, he said. The city has approved $150,000 in its 2017 budget to get the project under way. It hopes to encourage other agencies to pitch in another $150,000, he said.

Convincing other groups to put up money for the project is something the city has had success with before.

Some $690,000 was spent to decide the best way to solve the waterfront access problem. 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.

Accidents are the most common reason trains are stopped on the tracks. But an unusually high tide Dec. 4 allowed water to seep into the rail bed. That triggered the railroad crossing arms to go down — and remain down — for about an hour, Doherty said. Though no trains passed during that time, traffic trying to exit the ferry was backed up.

“Ultimately they had a police escort around the crossing arms on Main Street,” he said.

The Edmonds-Kingston crossing is one of the busiest routes in the state’s ferry system, transporting 4 million cars and passengers last year.

In the spring, a man was hit by a train in an apparent suicide. While the train was parked on the tracks as the accident was investigated, a women went into labor on the beach side. They had to pass her through an empty train car to get her medical attention.

By:  Sharon Salyer
Source: Daily Herald