Everett Herald

Published: Sunday, February 14, 2010
Centennial Trail plans are afoot in Arlington and Snohomish

The county hears ideas to make a 1.2-mile gap in Arlington safer and Snohomish works on a link to its Riverfront Trail.

By Gale Fiege and Andy Rathbun
Herald Writers

ARLINGTON — If there isn’t any money to close the gap in the Centennial Trail south of Arlington anytime soon, three longtime trail riders want to at least make it safer.

Snohomish bicyclists Don Kusler*, Bill Bates and George Price believe that new traffic signs on 67th Avenue NE telling drivers to slow down and share the road could make a difference.

In a recent letter to the Snohomish County Council, the men praised the trail, but bemoaned the dangerous 1.2-mile gap between 152nd and 172nd streets NE. The only option, they said, is to ride on 67th Avenue NE, which has no shoulders, no markings indicating that it’s also a bike route and is busy with fast-moving vehicles.

“I rode that stretch only once,” Kusler, 80, said. “That was enough. I’ve heard far too many stories about people getting clipped there.”

Kunsler, who has been an active bike rider on the trail for 15 years, is tired of waiting for the county to make a plan to bridge the gap.

“The signs would at least be a step in the right direction,” Kunsler said.

County Councilman John Koster agrees.

“Until we can get that trail gap finished, that’s probably a good idea. Drivers cruise that road at a pretty good clip,” Koster said. “I pester the parks director pretty regularly about the Centennial Trail and remind him often about the gap.”

It’s going to cost the county close to $2 million to build a connecting trail between trailheads at 152nd and 172nd streets, and figuring out how to pay for it is the main problem, Teigen said.

The county is almost done with drawings and design work for the project, Teigen said, and will apply for building permits in about three weeks. He hopes the county will receive money by next year.

The city of Arlington has scheduled a March 3 open house to hear what people have to say about the completion of a short stretch of the trail through the city. Plans call for the extension of the Centennial Trail from downtown to 204th Street NE and for improving the trail crossing at Lebanon Street.

North of Arlington, the county is working to complete a four-mile stretch of the trail from downtown to Pilchuck Creek near Bryant. That portion of the trail should be ready to open by the end of the of this year, Teigen said.

The four miles of the Centennial Trail from the Pilchuck north to the Skagit County line will have to wait until 2011 when the Army Corps of Engineers signs off on the county’s plan for a bridge that must be built over the creek.

The northerly 8-mile stretch of the trail will cost about $4.8 million. The county Parks Department received a grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office for that project.

Meanwhile, at the southern end of the Centennial Trail, a half-mile extension may be built within two years that lets cyclists coast onto the Snohomish Riverfront Trail.

Early plans call for a 12-foot wide asphalt trail running between Pine Avenue and Bowen Street.

Right now, the Centennial Trail’s southernmost point is at the intersection of Maple and Pine avenues, while the city’s Riverfront Trail stretches as far north as Bowen Street.

“This will complete the missing link,” said Ann Stanton, Snohomish’s parks and trails project manager.

Snohomish officials could choose a design team for the project in the coming months. A meeting to discuss the extension with the public could happen this summer, with crews starting work next year, Stanton said.

The $725,000 construction project, which also may include a 15-car parking lot for cyclists, will be funded entirely with federal transportation dollars.

The new section of trail may include picnic benches, street crossings, interpretive signs and new trees.

“We would like to create a linear park,” Stanton said.

Stanton said she expects the fully-funded project will move steadily forward, with cyclists riding on it by 2012.

Since construction will take place in Snohomish, the project will come before the City Council at various points for approval. Mayor Karen Guzak said the group is anxious to see work begin.

“It’s a big deal for the city,” she said. “We want more walking and biking paths.”

The Centennial Trail, used by thousands of walkers, bikers and horse riders, got its start in the late 1980s when a 6-mile segment was established between Snohomish and Lake Stevens. It opened in 1989, the state’s centennial year, and primarily follows an old railroad route from the late 1800s.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455; arathbun@heraldnet.com.