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Bond Street access plans appear to go dormant after snags

EVERETT — A former access point to get to the waterfront has remained closed for three years now, but the city said it has not given up the fight.
A dormant project to build either an underpass or overpass to cross the rail lines, though, is now going to be dead.
The Bond Street underpass was frequently used to access Pigeon Creek Trail, which runs beside the rail line on Port of Everett property south to Pigeon Creek Beach.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) fenced off the underpass to pedestrians in July 2014 in response to its own safety concerns after seeing people climbing over rail cars to get to the trail.
Without cutting through at Bond Street, the three-block jaunt to Junction Beach instead becomes a mile-long excursion.
“The city is not abandoning our efforts to seek additional public access to the waterfront,” city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.
In 2014, the city began working with BNSF to build an overpass or underpass to let people regain access across the trails, but that project was scuttled. It never got past a preliminary design phase.
The trouble was that BNSF put requirements that “quintupled” the original cost estimate, states a city memo from former Public Works Director Dave Davis who left the city last week.
Without construction funding to cover the higher costs, it halted the project.
The project had federal funding for preliminary design work and had a deadline for construction that has now passed, Pembroke said. A city housekeeping measure the City Council will likely approve this week to have the city fulfill repaying the federal government $64,000 for the project that didn’t get finished.
The pedestrian crossing is not a new idea. It was identified in 2009 city documents as something to build.
When the railroad closed the crossing, it sparked frustration at City Hall.
The city and BNSF often have to work together as the rail lines cross the city and the waterfront, but the city took a stand over the Bond Street access and sought legal leverage on the matter.
In early 2015, the city flexed its muscles to try to force open the access point by interfering with a separate rail project. BNSF sought to fill a berm under the rail bridge at the eastern edge of Hewitt Avenue nearby, and at the time the city offered tentative approval to the project if the railroad agreed to a conditional rider to force open pedestrian access at the nearby Bond Street pedestrian access again.
The railroad cried foul over the rider, calling the move illegal.
The city needs BNSF approval to build over the the tracks. The Grand Avenue Bridge project being built in 2018, for example, required BNSF approval to put the bridge over the tracks. The new Broadway Bridge, opened in December 2015, required extensive negotiations with the railroad.
In 2016, when a bridge at Howarth Park was suddenly closed, the city had to to work with the railroad to restore access to Howarth Park Beach.

A roadsign map provided by the city to show how people can access Pigeon Creek Beach.


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