U.S. Rep. Larsen hikes and bikes during local tours highlighting connectivity

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (center) walks the primary trail at Veterans Memorial Park on Monday along with City of Mountlake Terrace officials including Mayor Pro Tem Bryan Wahl (left) and Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Betz (right). (Photos by Nathan Blackwell)

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen walked the trails at Veterans Memorial Park on Monday while touring the planned transit connection project to the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center. In preparation for Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link light rail extension that is scheduled to begin service in 2024, the City of Mountlake Terrace plans to build a pedestrian plaza adjacent to the new light rail station and a lighted paved pedestrian trail through Veterans Memorial Park.

Larsen, who has regularly championed transportation and infrastructure investments, first met with City of Mountlake Terrace officials at Veterans Memorial Park to discuss the $2 million earmark he secured for the Mountlake Terrace Transit Connection Corridor Project in the Fiscal Year 2022 federal spending package.

The funding will be used to help construct the Gateway Plaza pedestrian plaza adjacent to the new light rail station along with paved, lit pedestrian trails and signage through Veterans Memorial Park that will connect to the transit center. The connectivity project will provide important links from the transit center to the Mountlake Terrace Civic Center, 58th Avenue West and 60th Avenue West, along with a primary trail through the park that’s ADA-accessible.

“I think what’s exciting about this project, is that as beautiful as this park is, more people will be able to get to use it once the improvements are done,” Larsen said. “The trails will be hardened with the asphalt so they’ll be ADA accessible as well. And it’s going to connect with the downtown of Mountlake Terrace that is redeveloping, including more apartments and density to accommodate the growth here in Snohomish County.”

“I’m excited because there’s a sign at the top of the hill and the bottom of the hill that says, ‘No access to the transit center,’” Larsen noted. “Those signs will be coming down.”

Wahl and Larsen survey the existing pedestrian bridge in Veterans Memorial Park.

“We really appreciate your support and help in making this come together,” Mayor Pro Tem Bryan Wahl told Larsen. “In just a few more years, we’re going to have our new transit station, the gateway to Snohomish County, and this project connects it all together,” along with the Civic Campus and surrounding downtown area, he said..

“The whole vision is to be able to create this walkable concentrated community with accommodating the growth that we know is coming and making sure that we’re able to allow pedestrian access so that people don’t have to get in their cars and can be able to walk from their home to the transit and be able to have access to the region,” Wahl added.

Speaking to the connectivity that the project will provide residents and visitors, Wahl said, “This is really exciting, it’s a beautiful place and people get to live work, shop, play, dine here and enjoy some nature while they’re at it walking from their home or work to the transit station or the new restaurants we’re going to have here. So it’s exciting to see it all come together.”

Gateway Plaza is designed as a 2,000-square-foot space that will welcome light rail passengers to Mountlake Terrace. It will be the first stop for light rail in Snohomish County and serve as a “gateway” to the area. The City of Mountlake Terrace will construct and also maintain the plaza after the project is completed.

Veterans Memorial Park is an 8.3-acre urban forest with a playground, gazebo, veteran memorial and other amenities. In addition to the trail upgrades, future improvements also include adding restrooms and replacing the playground and gazebo with new structures.

The $2 million Larsen secured was the final funding needed to complete the pedestrian plaza and trails project and construction is expected to begin in 2023. It has garnered funds from several sources including $2.5 million from Sound Transit, and another $577,581 federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program grant awarded by the Puget Sound Regional Council.

Larsen prepares to embark on a “pedal and policy” bicycle tour hosted by Leafline Trails and the Wilderness Society.

Larsen then joined state and local government officials along with community advocates for a “pedal and policy” bicycle tour hosted by Leafline Trails and the Wilderness Society. During the bicycle tour, the group stopped at several sites along a roughly 3.4-mile route throughout the area to highlight opportunities to invest in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

The pedal tour began and ended at Ballinger Park. It also included riding along the Interurban Trail and stopping at some of the trail’s intersections with area roadways such as 76th Avenue West in Edmonds and also crossing State Route 104 into Shoreline.

Larsen noted that he was in Blaine yesterday, adding, “The reason I bring that up is because my dream is to connect trails from here. Any money you have for King, Pierce and Kitsap (counties) forget about it,” he said, which drew laughs from those in attendance. “Put it into Skagit and Whatcom and let’s get a Snohomish-Skagit-Whatcom trail system built – let’s take north.”

While addressing the federal funding for active transportation and infrastructure provided under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Larsen said he was “very excited” because there are competitive grants available “in a lot of areas including in bike trails and safe routes.”

“There’s money in there for trails, and we need to continue that message that safe routes, trails, pedestrian walkways are as much a part of infrastructure and of transportation as anything else,” he added. “Not just the connections, but they are the connections that we need to invest in.”

Larsen spoke about the importance of safe routes, trails and pedestrian walkways.

— By Nathan Blackwell

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