Too many trains? Go under them…

By Pat Ratliff | Jul 06, 2012
Photo by: Pat Ratliff This area could be the start of a downgrade to a future underpass for ferry and emergency vehicles to get to the Edmonds waterfront.

Mayor Dave Earling said he has been carefully watching the discussion on the coal train issue in Edmonds, but he sees an even bigger problem with trains in the future. He says coal trains are a separate part of it.

“What makes Edmonds different is we’re the only city in the ferry system with an at grade conflict with the trains,” he said. “Those trains are delaying service on a state highway.

“They cut off access to the ferry, cut off access to an internationally known dive park, and cut off citizen access to the Port of Edmonds, the Edmonds Senior Center, and our beaches and waterfront.”

It’s not just citizen access that is being cut off, but quick access by police and emergency vehicles.

“A senior having a heart attack can’t wait six or seven minutes for the train to go by before the EMTs get there. A boat fire down at the marina can’t wait either,” Earling said.

Earling has discussed this problem with all the legislators of Districts 21 and 32, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, the head of the House Transportation Committee, and state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, of the Senate Transportation Committee, as well as David Mosley, head of the Washington State Ferry System, and Paula Hammond, Secretary of Washington State Department of Transportation, and has gotten a good reception.

“All the legislators get it,” he said.

What they “get” is an estimate in a 2005 Environmental Impact Study stating that, by 2030, more than 100 trains a day will pass through Edmonds.

What Earling is proposing to alleviate the problem is an underpass for ferry and emergency vehicles. And he has a large group of people who are interested in helping see this project get completed.

“We have a coalition of interested parties,” Earling said. “The Chamber of Commerce, Sustainable Edmonds, the Senior Center, the Port, The Edmonds Police Department and Fire Department 1, all would like to see a way to get that access across the tracks.

“That’s a diverse group of people vitally interested in keeping access open.”

Earling said this idea started with a discussion of how to load and unload ferries and have 24/7 emergency access to the waterfront.

An underpass would start in the current holding lanes, with a downgrade near the area where the tollbooths are now. It should take no additional space.

To put this idea before the public, the mayor and interested groups will hold a rally at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 11, in the park just south of the ferry terminal.

“I’d like to invite anyone who would like to, to come down and participate,” Earling said.

He said the group hopes to have a Facebook page up by this Thursday (July 5) titled “Don’t block our beach.”

The first question that comes to mind is, “Who’s going to pay for this?”

“We’ll have to get federal, state and local,” Earling said. “Everyone will have to get involved. But if we don’t start talking now, no one will be able to get to the waterfront.”

Earling said he’s beginning the talks now because an environmental impact statement for the coal trains is about to start.

“This is a long-term deal,” he said. “It’s only a concept. If there’s something else that we can do without ruining the waterfront, we can look at that, too.”

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