City’s credibility at stake at Rockaway, Rolling Bay | Our Opinion | March 25

It’s unsurprising that two of the island’s most hazardous shoreline roadways, Gertie Johnson Road and Rockaway Beach Drive, are being epitomized as examples of what happens when a city neglects its surface infrastructure.

There are some similarities, beginning with the fact both are on the east side of the island and run along shorelines that are utterly exposed to the currents and winds that dominate Puget Sound during the winter. They also have homes perched precariously both below and above them. Now, they are slumping toward the shore as their beds are undermined, causing cracks to run for long stretches – about 150 feet on Gertie Johnson.

The city has long studied how to fix Rockaway and has chosen to ignore Gertie Johnson’s problems for just as long. The city is poised now to spend about $200,000 in federal funds to begin a stabilization project on Rockaway Beach Drive, promising to unveil its plans on April 20. Doubtful residents of the area are holding their breath in anticipation, but maybe it will finally happen.

While there are some similarities, Gertie Johnson differs in that its problem begins with a steep incline that looms above the narrow, short roadway that currently serves five residences. Homes built atop the cliff have led to water erosion and several landslides in recent years, including two on March 14 that covered much of the road and led to evacuations of all five homes sandwiched between the road and Rolling Bay.

The instability of the old road and the fact the hillside is still drying out after a heavy rainfall has slowed the removal process, but the city hopes to begin hauling the material next week and getting the residents back into their homes a week later.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. No one wants to condemn those houses, as it happened to several homes located just south on Rolling Bay Walk. Maybe they shouldn’t be there, but they are and islanders has played a part in that fact. Only an ambitious and costly engineering project will fix Gertie and stabilize the hillside. But neglect is one thing, giving up another.

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