City takes steps to improve Highway 99

By Laura Daniali | Jun 25, 2015

The two-mile stretch of Highway 99 in Edmonds will present the City with a diverse set of challenges when it comes time to upgrade the corridor and surrounding areas.

There are four sub-districts – medical, international, combined residential and retail, and commercial – within the corridor, and each has it’s own character and uses, Development Services Director Shane Hope said.

She briefed the council on Tuesday, June 23, about recent planning for upgrades, and said the City allocated $100,000 to hire an outside consultant to gather public input and develop a plan beginning in the latter half of 2015.

A sub-committee, including Hope, Economic Development Director Patrick Doherty and councilmembers Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Mike Nelson, met on May 18 to talk about the current issues – future development, redevelopment opportunities, safety and security issues, and affordable housing.

Fraley-Monillas has lived in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood along Hwy. 99 for over 30 years, and said crime is an issue that needs to be addressed.

“Most people who live along the 99 corridor don’t feel safe at all times,” she said. “We tend to live in an area that has a lot of crime coming from other areas.”

Fraley-Monillas said as the City of Shoreline has made improvements and “cleaned up” its portion of Hwy. 99, the issues have moved north to Edmonds.

Other potential challenges were identified, such as the mix of uses in the area, which range from auto dealerships to encampments along the corridor.

“There are some uses that might be considered high value, very attractive and important economically, or in some other way high value and attractive,” she said, “and there are a range of things that maybe aren’t real high value to some people, but are high value to the people that use them, such as some wonderful ethnic restaurants in that area.”

There are also other uses that would not be considered high value, Hope said, and can be difficult to deal with like the unauthorized encampments that are located on vacant property.

“It’s quite a diverse area,” she said.

In addition to the diverse use of the area, Hope said, the actual roadway serves as a major transit hub for cars and the Community Transit bus system. The streetscape, which includes sidewalks, lighting and landscaping, will also need to be updated.

While much of Hwy. 99 has sidewalks, Hope said, they are not uniform, are narrow, run right along the edge of traffic, and have little greenery.

Fraley-Monillas said there are sidewalks along the “main drag” of Hwy. 99, but families within the residential neighborhoods do not have safe places to walk. In addition, the area only has one city park – Mathay Ballinger Park on 78th Place.

Determining what the streetscape should look like, and how it will function, will present more challenges for planners.

Hope said once the planning process begins it will take about one year to complete, or roughly through the latter half of 2016. The planning stage will help clarify the “future vision for the area, [while] at the same time recognizing there are distinct characters within that area.”

“I think we need to come to some sort of agreement as a council as to what we want Hwy. 99 to look like in five, 10, 15, 20 years from now,” Fraley-Monillas said.

Once the vision has been set, Hope said the city will have to identify ways to achieve it.

The next steps in the process include finding a consultant, and advocating for state funding to design and deliver the infrastructure improvements.

“We think it would help position the City better to get future grant funding by having a plan in place for the corridor,” Hope said.

 

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