Waterfront safety in Mukilteo l Guest View

Kevin Stoltz, Mukilteo Ferry Advisory Committee
Jun 20, 2018

As the busy summer season descends rapidly upon us, many are asking what changes are being made to ease the access and safety concerns of everyone trying to get to Mukilteo’s waterfront.

Whether you’re getting on the ferry or walking or driving to Lighthouse Park, the competing increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic impacts our community in ways that need to be thoughtfully considered for the benefit and safety of everyone.

So what improvements have been made since last summer and what improvements can we expect by the time the new ferry terminal is completed in the spring of 2020?

Hang on because there’s a lot to discuss. The community hasn’t fared well and the decisions that have now been made leave a lot to be desired after the new ferry terminal has been completed.

To help better visualize the following discussion, which admittedly can be difficult, please see the following drone video (SR525 from 5th Street to the current ferry terminal): https://youtu.be/RfcQ9gzq_T0

Last year, in an attempt to improve the Mukilteo Ferry’s dismal on-time performance during peak hours, the schedule was changed slightly from leaving every half hour to something that allows for more dwell time at the dock.

The results are back and unfortunately, this change had no effect. Other suggestions to better manage the vehicle/pedestrian interaction at the ferry dock intersection have fallen on deaf ears so there have been no improvements for this summer season.

There has been a change on SR525 at 5th Street to prevent the illegal lane changes between the ferry traffic and those in the main line (who are also turning right on 5th).

A physical separation between the ferry lane and the main line has been added as SR525 approaches 5th Street and the ferry lane hold line has been moved back to allow safer right-hand turns onto 5th Street.

Although the idea is good, the implementation will need to be improved in the future to really get what was expected including a better turn radius onto 5th and onto SR525 to improve the efficiency of the intersection (allowing more vehicles through per signal cycle).

Something else that many of us had hoped for this summer was the implementation of the SR525 pedestrian crosswalk at 2nd Street. That would have allowed pedestrians going from the Rosehill area to Lighthouse Park to avoid the ferry dock intersection thereby improving the performance and safety of that intersection and likely helping the on-time performance of the ferry in the process.

Although the new crosswalk across SR525 at 2nd Street is planned to be a permanent addition to the new ferry terminal project, because of other decisions (explained below), it’s going to make pedestrian safety and traffic congestion worse.

Although you may have seen the Mukilteo Waterfront Development signs that show a new pedestrian bridge over the train tracks parallel to and East of the existing SR525 bridge, that’s not going to happen.

Instead, the city council approved an option to add four additional feet to the 3.5’ sidewalk on the East side of the SR525 bridge.

This was one of two options proposed by WSDOT that effectively gets the additional 4 feet by scrunching the four traffic lanes together on the bridge (the other option would have split the additional 4’ to add 2’ to both (3.5’) sidewalks on both the East and West side).

The approved configuration, while creating a 7.5’ sidewalk width on the East side, leaves the substandard 3.5’ sidewalk on the West side.

Walking across the bridge on a 7.5’ sidewalk on the East side will be a huge improvement over the current 3.5’ sidewalk, however, once you’re over the bridge, there’s no crosswalk across SR525 to get to Lighthouse Park.

Instead you have to cross the new four-lane road (where the current ferry toll booths are) turning right towards the new ferry terminal (with ferry traffic to your back) and then there’s a crosswalk on the other side across SR525.

Creating a situation where right-hand turning (and possibly late) ferry traffic is at crossing pedestrians’ backs is a significant safety concern many of us have been complaining about since the design started.

That’s also one of the reasons we pushed for a permanent crosswalk across SR525 at 2nd Street. The city is proposing stairs and a pedestrian underpass that if built will greatly help the situation.

However, this coming December will mark the 10 year anniversary of when I, as a Mukilteo City Councilmember, originally proposed the pedestrian underpass.

I wish I could be more optimistic, but I’m not holding my breath.

Not only will the lack of sidewalk widening on the West side of the bridge be a safety issue to pedestrians on the West side of SR525 (and to pedestrians wishing to walk from Lighthouse Park to the Peace Park), but the current crosswalk configuration will actually provide for and encourage pedestrians on the West side to cross four lanes of traffic at three different locations, thereby greatly increasing the pedestrian safety problem as well as the resulting traffic congestion.

Having failed to get WSF, WSDOT and the city of Mukilteo to reconsider their disconnected decision making process which results in decreased pedestrian safety and increased traffic congestion, I contacted the governor’s office. The response was, “Thank you for your email. I have spoken with the city of Mukilteo, WSF and WSDOT about this issue to better understand the situation. Your concerns are noted and we appreciate you bringing this issue to our office’s attention.” To which I replied, “I appreciate your attention to this matter. However, now that you better understand the situation from the perspective of the agencies whose actions have created it, I would appreciate the opportunity to explain what the problem is from the perspective of those of us who will be directly impacted and face the greatest risk of injury as pedestrians.”

I haven’t heard back.

For more information about the Mukilteo Ferry Advisory committee contact Kendal Harr or myself at MukilteoFAC@gmail.com

 

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