What’s a life worth? Edmonds Waterfront Connector needed | Guest View

By Kirk Greiner | May 31, 2018
Photo by: City of Edmonds

I am concerned with the letter by Chris Walton that appeared in the May 24 issue of the Beacon (“Fire Authority unprepared for City Council presentation.”)

Let me express my qualifications for addressing his concerns. One of my last jobs in the Coast Guard before I retired was in Coast Guard headquarters. All proposed regulations were reviewed by me prior to being approved by the board of admirals tasked with making the final recommendations to the commandant.

A major concern of the Coast Guard was and is the safety of people, and secondarily property of such as vessels, bridges, docks and the marine environment. Safety of personnel is paramount followed by safety of property.

Two years ago, Mayor Dave Earling asked me if I would be a member of his task force seeking a solution to the safety problem of a train blocking both Main and Dayton streets, the only two streets providing access for emergency equipment and personnel to the land west of the railroad track.

I became a member of that committee. We considered some 50 different ideas, many submitted by the public. They varied in location, and in type. Walk over bridges, locate some emergency equipment on the west side of the track, etc.

Public hearings were held. We did consider the need for some action. Our decision went to the mayor, and City Council approved it. That decision was to build the Waterfront Connector at Edmonds Street. The choice was based on cost and need.

There is now a new mayor’s committee, which I am also on to recommend the type and style of such a bridge connector, which will normally not be for non-emergency vehicle traffic. My recommendation has been that the connector be the least expensive possible and with a profile that is least obtrusive to the view from Sunset Avenue. I share Mr. Walton’s concern for expense.

Now let me address Mr. Walton's key concern, “need.”

First what is it that we “need”? Like the Coast Guard, the need is to provide safety for the people on the west side of the tracks. The primary need would be medical and ambulance service. The secondary need is the ability to fight a fire. Third, and one might argue this is not a need, means to handle ferry traffic during extended blockages.

Walton complains about the lack of information from the Regional Fire Authority. We had a five-hour blockage several years ago, and there have been several since then that I am aware of.

However, during the April 4, 2018, City Council meeting, Ed Sibel said that between 2010 and 2015, there were 277 emergency 911 calls from the waterfront, with 171 of those requiring basic life support response and 72 requiring advanced life support, plus 14 fires and 8 water rescues.

At the meeting Walton attended, Public Works Director Phil Williams said that, according to South County Fire data, there were approximately 100 emergency calls on the waterfront last year, about two a week. In response to a question, he said in the eight years he had been with the city, trains had been involve with blockages four or five times

Lastly, Walton says: “I think the risk of my not receiving emergency service at a critical moment due to a train stopped on both tracks is significantly low at best (even with projected increase in train frequency).”

First, there is only one track, although a second one may be built in the future. But that doesn’t make any difference. One train blocking both Dayton and Main is what we are talking about. Second, he ignored the second need, to fight a fire.

What is a life worth?

Perhaps it might be different to an individual, in this case depending on which side of the track he lived on. I live of the east side of the train tracks, but I’m concerned for the safety of those who live on the west side.

Hopefully, there are others who share my concern.

Kirk Greiner lives in Edmonds.

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