Dash across highway spoils a good walk
A step at a time is my road map for 2012. Speaking of steps, I do need to get out walking, resolution or not.
It's been awhile since I took my favorite loop. Last summer I made a weekend habit of walking north from my house on Everett's Rucker Avenue. I'd go past American Legion Memorial Park on Alverson Boulevard, then down to the waterfront on W. Marine View Drive before coming back up to my neighborhood via 25th Street or Everett Avenue.
I'd often catch a free Sunday concert at Port Gardner Landing, near Lombardi's restaurant. It's a great walk-- except for one hair-raising spot.
There is no crosswalk at the northern end of Alverson Boulevard. Crossing W. Marine View Drive isn't some easy stroll across a city street. That road is also Highway 529, a state route.
Getting to the sidewalk along W. Marine View Drive requires a terrifying dash across four lanes of traffic, plus a center lane. The speed limit is 35 miles per hour, but few drivers comply on a street that feels like -- and is -- a highway.
I have drawn angry glances from drivers by running across, and I've seen other walkers and joggers do it, too. The sidewalk on W. Marine View Drive in that area is on the water side, not the train-tracks side.
Once you've made that perilous crossing, it's worth it. The sidewalk along the waterfront has been widened and landscaped, thanks to projects by the city and the Port of Everett. Plantings now create a buffer between walkers and traffic, adding a sense of safety and cutting down on road noise. There are little parks with benches and views of tide flats, Jetty Island and the channel.
I don't have a new year's resolution, but there is something on my wish list: a crosswalk to make that trek safer and more inviting. A crosswalk at the north end of Alverson is also on the city's wish list.
Ryan Sass, city engineer in Everett's Public Works Department, said the city has wanted a crosswalk or signal there for some time.
"It is in our six-year transportation improvement plan," Sass said Wednesday. A project called "Grand Avenue North Marine Ped-Bike Connection" is part of a "six-year list of everything we would like to do if we had the funds," he said. The purpose of listing the project, although money isn't available, "is that it positions us to compete for various types of funding," Sass said. "We like to be ready."
Before the sour economy stalled the Port Gardner Wharf condominium project several years back, Sass said there was talk of a full traffic signal at that spot. He said Everett traffic engineer Dongho Chang has talked with state officials, but that the state doesn't see a need for a full signal because current car and pedestrian volume doesn't warrant one.
"We have talked to them about the possibility of active flashers there, where there would be a striped crosswalk with overhead flashing lights and a pedestrian activation button," Sass said. The price for that type of crosswalk would run $180,000 to $200,000, he said.
Why not simply paint a crosswalk? "We don't want to encourage a false sense of security," Sass said.
Crossing where I do isn't encouraged, but it is legal. It is an intersection, and to cross there is not jaywalking, Sass said.
Lisa Lefeber, public affairs administrator for the Port of Everett, said Wednesday that access from Grand Avenue to the waterfront was discussed during planning for the Port Gardner Wharf project. The waterfront condos haven't become a reality, but Lefeber said the port's trail system has been greatly expanded.
"A lot of people don't know you can walk all along the water's edge," she said. There are now trails from the 10th Street Park and Boat Launch to the 12th Street Marina and the Everett Yacht Club. The Everett Shipyard site, near the old Scuttlebutt building, is now being cleaned up, but much of waterfront is now walkable away from W. Marine View Drive.
Since the port adopted a public access policy in 1988, Lefeber said, $13 million has been spent to bring people closer to Everett's waterfront. "There are a lot of walking areas down here. Because you can't see it from the road, people don't know it's there," said Lefeber, adding that the port has produced a public access map.
I'll keep wishing for that crosswalk. And I'll probably keep dashing across that highway -- although I don't recommend it.
The other way to the waterfront on foot, near The Herald building and Everett Avenue, isn't as nice a walk.
"It's on a long list of things we would like to do," Sass said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, email@example.com.
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