Final Southeast Bypass document arrives

September 23, 2008

By Jon Savelle

A draft of the very last document for the long-proposed, oft-opposed Southeast Bypass is finally in hand.

In a surprise development that caught the City Council off guard, Mayor Ava Frisinger announced at the Sept. 15 council meeting that the Federal Highway Administration had submitted its record of decision for review.

The document follows the council’s decision in January to endorse the “no build” option for the road, which would have cut across the lower slopes of Tiger Mountain between Interstate 90 and Issaquah-Hobart Road.

But the record of decision is not in its final form. As requested by the City Council, the Highway Administration sent a draft for the council’s review and revision prior to issuing the final version. Many council members had not reviewed it by Sept. 19, but Council President Maureen McCarry was reading it that day.

“It’s good that we got it,” she said. “I’m excited to take it up Oct. 6 for further discussion” at the City Council meeting.

While the draft in her hands came from the Highway Administration, McCarry said she was not exactly sure who had written it. Initially, the agency had received a draft, written by the city’s Public Works Engineering Department, which had been based on a “build” decision and which the Highway Administration was supposed to modify.

But while the current draft does reflect the “no build” decision, at the same time it appears to argue against that decision. In one example, under the heading of “Local and Regional Mobility,” the draft reads:

“Given the severe congestion anticipated along Front Street South, drivers will look for alternative routes, such as Second Avenue Southeast, which will result in an increase in neighborhood cut-through traffic. The Southeast Issaquah Bypass was needed to improve mobility between the northern and southern portions of Issaquah and to provide additional access to I-90.”

The draft record of decision also states that selection of the no-build option by the council was due to a change in the “balance of support” for the bypass following the election in November 2007 of new council members. Councilman David Kappler, however, said that is an oversimplification.

“The project has been dead a long time,” he said. “It had no financing, and would have produced minor benefits.”

Download the draft record of decision and its accompanying Agenda Bill 5893 at  the city’s Web site www.ci.issaquah.wa.us/files/AB%205893.pdf.

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