Reflecting on the Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector | Mayor's Corner

‘The project is not moving forward’
By Dave Earling | Jun 27, 2019
Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling

Notwithstanding last week's City Council vote to discontinue work on the Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector, a flurry of public speculation and/or misinformation continues, especially on social media, about the project's status.

It's important to note that, since the project's inception, it has been the City Council that has called the shots on the project's progress.

Initially, the City Council approved the use of $150,000 in City monies (augmented by the state, Port, BNSF, Sound Transit and Community Transit) to fund a study of up to 51 alternatives to the Waterfront access and emergency response issue.

In November 2016, the City Council voted 7-0 to accept the Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector as the preferred concept. In October 2018, the City Council moved the project further along by selecting a preferred design.

These votes by council gave clear direction to my staff and me to piece together the project – including increasing design work, supporting information, and pursuit of funding.

And, just as it was the council's prerogative to approve the first two phases of this project's progress, it was also their prerogative last week to vote 4-3 to discontinue further work on the project. That said, to clear up any confusion: The project is not moving forward.

And public speculation to the contrary does not change that fact.

Nevertheless, the council's vote last week comes as a great disappointment for two principal reasons: First and foremost, the vote nixes what had been selected as the "BEST solution" to delivering emergency response services to the waterfront, as stated by South County Fire District Chief Doug Dahl in a recent letter.

Second, the vote upends over three sessions' worth of diligent collaboration with the state Legislature through our local legislators and the key Legislative transportation chairs. That process yielded great success in Olympia – raising $7.05 million for the design and construction of the project, above and beyond the initial $1.2 million provided to conduct the two first phases of analysis and design concepts.

What's more, those monies were supplemented by funds from the Port of Edmonds, BNSF Railway, Sound Transit, Community Transit, and the City. And the Port even pledged $1.5 million for construction of the Waterfront Connector.

With these commitments in hand, we also had successful meetings in Washington, D.C., with both of our Senators and four of our Washington Representatives, all of whom signed letters of support.

Likewise, we met with top-level staff from USDOT. The support on all fronts was outstanding. All of this was done to pave the way to securing many millions more in grant funding.

Your city staff in the Development Services and Public Works departments, along with our hired consultants, dedicated hundreds of hours of effort to the project. They deserve accolades for the quality, professional work they have provided over the past three-plus years.

What's more, with over three years of public process invested in the project, the result was hundreds of hours of public involvement, resulting in 1,500 members of the public providing input at over 20 public meetings and online.

In addition, 25 meetings of two Advisory Task Forces and a Design Committee were held. Lastly, the public provided over 700 points of direct feedback and input to the process. Regardless of the recent outcome, the public should be thanked for their involvement and input into the formulation of the project.

It's up to us now to take a break, reflect on the remaining purpose and need for emergency response to the waterfront, and contemplate some future process for identifying a project that could address the need but also meet with public and City Council approval.

That process will take time and will require additional funds.

And regarding funds, it's important to state for the record that we will not be able to use the $7.05 million in state monies, nor the $1.5 million in Port contribution, for any other uses the public or City Councilmembers may have mentioned – not Highway 99, not sidewalks or neighborhood road paving, not a pedestrian bridge across the railroad tracks.

For any of those projects, as well as for any future solution to the waterfront emergency-response issues, new sources of funds will have to be sought.

And that points up my final concern; that is, the daunting challenge the city now faces – in the near future – of rebuilding credibility in Olympia and Washington, D.C., when applying for other large and expensive projects such as Highway 99 rehabilitation ($150 million-$200 million) or restoration of the Edmonds Marsh ($12 million-$15 million).

The relationships we've built and cultivated over the years in seeking funds from the Legislature and the federal government are the result of good-faith efforts on our part.

Pulling the plug on the Waterfront Connector at this point, after years of engaging our partners on the subject, will affect our credibility and trustworthiness. I hope we can rebuild that trust in the not-too-distant future to help us with our other many projects.


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