City seeks a bridge over troubled alternatives
Last updated 3/2/2016 at Noon
Unhappy Mukilteo councilmembers and members of the public unloaded on state transportation officials recently after seeing two proposed alternatives for improving pedestrian and bicycle access on the Speedway south of Front Street.
Long looking for safer alternatives for moving people over the railroad tracks on SR 525, the city applied for a $2.6 million state Pedestrian Access Grant in 2004. The state approved the application.
At a Feb. 16 council meeting, followed by a Feb. 24 open house here, Washington State Ferries presented two alternatives for giving pedestrians and bike riders more room to cross the narrow bridge that connects the waterfront to the rest of town.
The first alternative proposes eliminating one southbound lane (up the hill) before the bridge what is informally called a “road diet” giving designers room to widen sidewalks and add bicycle lanes on SR 525.
Presenting the options to the council, WSF representative John Chi said that proposal would cost between $2 million and $2.5 million.
That alternative also would enable designers to add a sidewalk on 2nd Street west of Park Avenue, along with 29 diagonal parking spaces, new sidewalk on SR-525 between 2nd and 3rd streets, and striping, signage and signal improvements at the Speedway-5th Street intersection as well.
The second alternative would entail building a separate bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists, with a potential price tag upwards of $7 million. To make that bridge ADA-compliant meaning with a 7 percent maximum grade a sharp and lengthy switchback would have to be included in the design.
And because of its much higher cost, sidewalks and other improvements on 2nd Street and the Speedway would have to be eliminated, Chi said.
Councilmembers weren’t enthusiastic about their choices.
“I’m not terribly excited,” Councilmember Randy Lord said. “These are two marginally OK alternatives.
“Do you want this bad design or this one?”
Issues of concern include striping, turning problems from the new ferry landing onto the Speedway, pedestrians and bike riders trying to get across the ferry lanes safely, traffic congestion should a traffic lane be eliminated, and more.
Councilmember Steve Schmalz also expressed concerns about eliminating a southbound lane. He questioned whether modeling of traffic flows by state designers accurately reflected traffic speeds, particularly when big, slow trucks like lumber haulers were chugging up the steep Speedway from the ferry.
Former Councilmember Kevin Stoltz, a resident of Old Town who was active in early discussions about waterfront access problems, was likewise critical of the two options.
“This has evolved into something that’s pretty disastrous,” Stoltz said. He presented WSF and the city with a long list of concerns, and said he would create a website that included video from his drone to show how challenging the problems are.
Chi said the city doesn’t have to accept either of the two alternatives, and that WSF could design other alternatives after hearing from city officials and the public.
“It’s up to the public to decide what they want,” he said.
Should either of the current alternatives or some as-yet unknown ones be preferred, no pedestrian access improvements would be implemented until after the $129 million ferry relocation project is completed, tentatively projected to be done by 2019.
Chi said design work for improved pedestrian and bike access could begin in 2019, with construction beginning in the spring of 2020.