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Ferry issues: Focus on what can be done

 

Last updated 2/17/2021 at 12:32pm



This month I need to take a break from what has become an overwhelming list of frustrations that have come with the new Mukilteo ferry terminal project.

Over the past several years, the coordination between government officials and the local stakeholders (residents) has degraded significantly. Decisions are justified using the “public input checkbox” that ultimately concludes “most people like our plan.” And those who don’t? “Well, you can’t please everyone.”

To help illustrate how it should be, I’d like to tell a little story and focus on some previous successes.

Over 25 years ago when I worked as an engineer at Boeing, and long before getting involved in the political arena, 84th Street/SR-526 was changed from two lanes up and two lanes down, to, one lane up and three lanes down (at the SR-525 intersection). Going from two lanes up, where faster traffic could get around slower traffic, to one lane, where the slowest traffic would slow down everyone didn’t make sense.

I tried contacting the engineering manager for the Snohomish region of WSDOT to set up a meeting. After several unanswered requests to my voicemails, I finally left a voicemail suggesting a time that I would come to the WSDOT building, AND for him to call me if that didn’t work.

Not receiving a phone call, I headed down to the WSDOT building, walked into the lobby and told the receptionist I had a meeting. I wasn’t on his schedule so the receptionist called upstairs and notified me he was on his way down. When the elevator doors opened we introduced ourselves, and he apologized for not responding to my calls.

From that point on, we had a good relationship and several phone calls trying to get an answer to my concerns. Finally, the WSDOT conclusion was the data indicated there was much more traffic com-

ing down the hill than going up, and so the lane configuration was changed based on the resulting computer model. I asked if the computer model took into account the steep grade up 84th Street? Eventually, we all learned the model didn’t and the decision was a mistake.

Twenty-five-plus years later I was thrilled to learn that this problem was going to be fixed due in part to some grant money available to put bike lanes on 84th Street. I was thrilled the former Mukilteo planning director remembered my concerns and was able to ensure it was part of the solution before she left the city.

Today, 84th Street again has two lanes up and recently even a new flashing yellow light allowing left hand turns when there’s a break in oncoming traffic. To me, this is huge because it increases the efficiency of the intersection and allows more of us locals along with ferry traffic to get through the intersection per cycle.

Some of the current issues we’re experiencing related to the new Mukilteo ferry terminal construction area really shouldn’t be issues. If only the design philosophy was more focused on “what can be done” rather “what can’t,” we’d be a lot better off.

One of the previous extremely successful projects at the old ferry dock involved moving the stoplight for exiting ferry traffic at the mid-span location (which was usually turned off) up to the intersection and then putting in a walk signal for pedestrians. It was an engineered solution that was timed to minimize any offloading delay and resulted in a 30-second walk signal every 90 seconds, even better than we had hoped for, considering the previous light, when turned on, was timed to create a break in offloading ferry traffic every four minutes.

Another problem we were previously able to get resolved with WSDOT/WSF cooperation was a problem with the newly installed ADA ramps across SR-525 at Front Street being a pedestrian trip hazard. I was able to arrange for the WSDOT engineering manager to come on-site for one of my “mini field trips.” Coincidentally, while we were at the problem location, a pedestrian crossing SR-525 tripped over the new ADA ramp curb and nearly fell into the intersection. That was all it took to justify changing the hard line ADA requirements to be more practical based on the situational awareness of our environment.

Some city planned pedestrian access/safety projects have been completely eliminated because they can’t meet “current” ADA requirements.

Even though we still have the opportunity to accomplish some good things at the waterfront, I have to admit, currently, it seems to be all we can do to keep things from getting worse. Most of us locals seem to be in the “you can’t please everyone” camp.

Drop me a note at [email protected] if you have ideas for future columns or additional information you’d like to share.

 

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