New Everett pedestrian bridge the beginning of waterfront transformation

EVERETT, Wash. -- Tacoma’s doing it.  So is Seattle. Now add Everett to the list of cities transforming their waterfronts into places for families to shop, eat and play.

City officials broke ground Tuesday for a new pedestrian footbridge that will reconnect the Grand Avenue bluff to Puget Sound.

Organizers say it’s not only good for business but it provides access they haven’t had in decades.

This signifies that the waterfront is open, said Les Reardanz, executive director for the Port of Everett, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Grand Avenue Park Bridge Tuesday morning.

For the city of Everett, the bridge is just the beginning.

“We’re excited, said Joani Barbacovi, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 15 years. “We walk along the waterfront all the time but there’s no quick way to get down there."

The bridge will allow easier pedestrian access to the waterfront from a more accessible central location.

“Decades ago there used to be a wooden stairs from this park, said Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson. “I can remember as a kid growing up in Everett, going down those steps and crossing the railroad tracks – obviously it wasn’t very safe.”

The bridge will change that. The project first started as a problem when utility pipes that carried drainage and storm water needed replacing, but designers figured out how to lay the pipe, provide a main replacement to Lift Station 7, provide a future water main crossing and also create a car-free route to the waterfront.

That’s big news for a city that’s trying to compete with other waterfronts across the Puget Sound.

“The Port of Everett is in the midst of waterfront re-development creating a neighborhood down there, which is a mixed-use development of residential housing, restaurants, public access, spaces and so forth,” said Reardanz.  “So the opportunity have connectivity between the bluff and down to the waterfront will be great and enhance that neighborhood.”

According to Stephanson, the $15 million project is funded in part by the utility companies and the taxpayers who pay for utilities. The city has also secured funding locally and from Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and from the Port of Everett.

The bridge will connect residents and visitors to 3 ½ miles of waterfront trails, the Everett Farmers Market and the largest public marina on the west coast.

The City of Everett and Port of Everett hope the project will enhance the neighborhood and bring visitors from elsewhere.

That’s just the concern though for Erin Koehler, who just moved in across the street from where the bridge is being constructed.

“I know that there’s going to be parking down below, but I feel like most of the people will probably come here, park her and walk across the bridge,” said Koehler. “Most likely we’ll lose our access to parking on the street in front of our homes.”

But other residents think it’s exactly what the old mill town needed.

“Now we walk either 6 miles or we go the short way and its about 3 miles,” said Barbacovi, “So this is going to be really nice.”

The project is set to be completed by late 2018.

The Port of Everett’s new mixed development…creating a hotel, splash pad, and retail shopping down near the water will likely be complete by summer 2019.