Council approves design criteria for waterfront access

By Ian Davis-Leonard | May 23, 2018

In a decision that will affect the future of pedestrian safety at the Mukilteo waterfront and ferry terminal for years to come, the Mukilteo City Council approved the design criteria for the Waterfront Pedestrian Access project.

The project will widen the sidewalk on the east side of the 525 bridge, install a crosswalk at the top of the bridge with a pedestrian safety light, and change design elements of the northeast corner of 2nd street and SR525 to prevent drivers from turning into the ferry lane.

The plan was presented by Mick Matheson, Mukilteo’s public works director, at Monday’s City Council meeting, and was approved by a 4 to 3 vote after more than an hour of discussion by councilmembers. Council President Steve Schmalz and Councilmembers Bob Champion and Richard Emery voted against the motion.

Drivers on the 525 bridge will face reduced lane width, as the approved plan will more than double the width of the sidewalk on the east side of the bridge from its current size of 3 feet 6 inches to a substantially larger 7 feet 6 inches.

“We feel it’s best to widen the sidewalk on just one side only, and that would be on the east side,” Matheson said.

The sidewalk on the bridge’s west side will remain 3 feet 6 inches.

The decision to only increase the width of the east sidewalk is estimated to save the city $30,000 and will have less construction impact than widening both sidewalks would.

At this time, there will be no pedestrian safety railing separating 525 traffic and pedestrians on the sidewalk, but the east side will include a BNSF throw rail to prevent items from being tossed on the trains below.

“We discussed putting in a pedestrian safety railing, but that limits the walking width,” Matheson said. “The consensus (of the Infrastructure Committee) was not to do that.”

If both sidewalks were to be widened, an additional throw rail would have to be put in on the west side of the bridge as well, a decision that worried council Vice President Christine Cook, because of both cost and the aesthetics of the bridge.

As part of the project's approval, the council also decided to locate a permanent crosswalk across SR525 at 2nd Street with a pedestrian signal system installed for safety.

“With that crossing, some residents who live on the west side of the Speedway can cross at 2nd Street to the east side and use the wider sidewalk to get down to the waterfront,” said Andrea Swisstack, assistant city engineer. “It provides them with that option.”

Councilmember Scott Whelpley was concerned about traffic leaving the ferry faster than the 25 MPH speed limit along that stretch of 525 and what effect that could have on safety.

The presence of a pedestrian signal system and crosswalk did not deter Whelpley’s fears; he said a Washington State Department of Transportation official told him that more people die in crosswalks than anywhere else.

The council also ruled in favor of using a High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) as the ideal pedestrian signal system for the 2nd Street crossing, but for much of the discussion councilmembers were split on this choice.

“The preferred pedestrian signal was to use a HAWK signal rather than a rapid flashing beacon,” Matheson said.

Councilmembers and citizens were concerned about an increase in traffic congestion along 525 with the added light, but Matheson said that the HAWK signal can be linked with the stop light on 5th Street to reduce delays.

Cook attempted to amend the bill to remove the recommendation for a HAWK signal until further research could be conducted. Her effort failed by a vote of 3 to 4 with Cook, Champion and Whelpley voting in favor of the amendment.

Additionally, the project plans to decrease the curb radius of the northeast corner of SR525 and 2nd Street to prevent drivers from turning directly into the ferry lane and to create an overlook or plaza area for pedestrians.

The project, which is receiving funding from the WSDOT, is tentatively scheduled to be completed in 2020.

 

 

 

 

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