Long-standing Bothell market faces uncertain future as city plans to expand roadway

BOTHELL, Wash. -- Residents in Bothell said they were worried a proposed bus lane would threaten the future of community-staple, Yakima Fruit Market. The beloved business is located directly on the path of Sound Transit’s proposed expansion project.

John Gallagher, public information officer for Sound Transit, said the company was in the early stages of planning to expand its Bus Rapid Transit routes in Bothell along SR 522. Gallagher explained the expansion would include a new bus lane, median and sidewalk. He mentioned the expansion could total up to 25 feet wide along Bothell Way.

“For bus rapid transit to be rapid, the buses really need their own lanes, so they’re not stuck in the general-purpose lanes,” said Gallagher. “The lanes we’re proposing to build would also allow folks who are entering and exiting businesses to have a lane to pull into without pulling into the general-purpose lane.”

Yakima Fruit Market has been located on Bothell Way as a family-owned and operated business since 1938.  Stuart Poage said he has owned the business with his wife since the late 1970s after it was passed down from his father and grandfather.

“The outpouring from the public has let me know how its longevity touched their hearts, which has the touched our hearts,” said Poage.

Linda Newton, a loyal Yakima customer, said she has shopped at the market for the last 38 years.

“It is literally part of our life,” said Newton. “I don’t have to worry about what they’re bringing in. I know that their quality is highest. I know all of their employees are very well taken care of.”

Poage said he witnessed a lot of change in the community over the years, but mentioned much of the market stayed the same.  He said change knocked on his front door when he was notified of the bus lane proposal.

“In this case, I have a concept facing me and I’m not positive what that concept is. And so, what I can do, I don’t know yet,” said Poage. “It’s not a clear understanding. I’ve been presented with conceptual things that are conceptual.”

Poage explained the bus lane, median and sidewalk would take over his parking lot and possibly part of his building. Gallagher said voters approved the bus rapid transit proposal in 2016. He said the expansion was needed to accommodate the growth in the region.

“We need better ways of getting around instead of being stuck in traffic. Folks are looking for those options to get to wherever they’re going in efficient, safe and predictable manner,” said Gallagher.

“I understand it’s projecting into the future. We didn’t need 405, but look where’d we be without it now,” said Poage. “I get it. It’s just, now, all of this has gotten really personal.”

Some Yakima customers passed out flyers in their communities to help protect the market and raise awareness about the proposal.

“I feel like it’s the last of the community that’s left over. And to think that they would take it out for a bus lane—they’re providing service for people that are going through the community at the expense of those of us that live here,” said Newton.  “Maybe I’m not going to stop progress, but I’m not going to sit back and allow some place like this that’s benefitted so many people for so many years to just get caught up in it.”

Gallagher said planning was in the early stages. He said Sound Transit would continue speaking with Poage and other property owners who could be impacted by the proposed expansion.

“To understand what the property impacts are to them and how we might be able to minimize or mitigate what those impacts are,” said Gallagher. “We’re certainly hopeful we can do something that will satisfy both parties.”

“It sounds like some time next year, we’ll have some concept. We’d like to be proactive so that whatever is coming comes, we’ll be able to be prepared and continue doing it,” said Poage. “I have no intentions of moving, we have no intentions of closing. But we may have to reinvent ourselves.”

Gallagher said once plans are finalized, Sound Transit hopes to launch service on the expansion by 2024.