Prioritizing safety

At the City of Edmonds, safety for our residents and visitors is our top priority. Every day, the Edmonds waterfront draws thousands of people, local and visitor, to the marine sanctuary and beach, the dive park, playgrounds, marina, restaurants, local businesses, and the ferry terminal. This busy neighborhood is separated from downtown Edmonds by the BNSF railroad tracks, which are experiencing increasing volumes of train traffic.

When no trains are present, the Edmonds waterfront can be accessed by two streets less than a quarter-mile apart, Main Street and Dayton Street. On a typical day, regular access to the waterfront is not that difficult. While it doesn’t happen that often, extended track shutdowns do occur. When this happens, vehicle access to and from the waterfront is impossible, and pedestrian access is highly restricted. At these times, the waterfront community does not have access to full-scale emergency services, nor can stranded ferry passengers be off-loaded.

Fortunately, our community has yet to experience a major tragedy due to this scenario, and we want to keep it that way. With rail traffic projected to grow 50 to 100 percent by 2030, access to the Edmonds waterfront will be increasingly limited, and the chance for tragedy increases. We need to plan now to get ahead of the problem by building a long-term solution for reliable emergency access.

Rail traffic and emergency response in Edmonds

  • Approximately 40 trains pass through Edmonds daily.
  • Rail traffic is projected to grow 50 to 100% by 2030, which means access to the waterfront may be restricted up to 4 hours per day, not including potential extended shutdowns.
  • Between July 1, 2010 and December 8, 2015, 277 emergency calls to the waterfront were reported by Fire District 1 in Snohomish County. Of those calls, 64 had response times of seven minutes or longer.
  • The road-rail crossing at Main Street is prioritized in the top 50 crossing conflicts in the entire State of Washington, according to a recent study.

Waterfront access in other communities

Several other communities in the area have faced similar issues with access to their waterfront and businesses due to railroad crossings and delays. Larger cities often have multiple access points spread out across large areas, so detours to the waterfront are possible. Other cities, like Mukilteo, constructed a bridge over the railway to allow consistent access.

The Edmonds Ferry Terminal is the last remaining Washington location where ferry loading across street-level train tracks takes place in the Washington State Ferry system. Currently, train passage completely halts ferry loading/unloading. This ferry route is the state’s top freight and second busiest passenger route in the state, with 4 million passengers annually. While the Waterfront Connector will be primarily used by emergency responders, it may also be used for ferry offloading in case of extended blockages and delays so people and goods can reach their destination.