Bypass road riles community again
November 19, 2008
By Jon Savelle
Since voting in February to adopt the no-build option for the proposed Southeast Bypass, the City Council’s meetings have been free of polarizing debate on the subject.
But it all came back to the Transportation Committee Nov. 13, when the final project document came up for discussion.Called a record of decision and issued by the Federal Highway Administration, the document is supposed to finally and officially close the project review process. A draft of it was the topic of discussion at the committee meeting, but once again, council members and citizens divided into opposing camps. Old arguments for and against the road were aired again, and old emotions stirred anew.
At issue is whether the draft record of decision is acceptable in tone and content, and whether any additional comments or revisions should be incorporated into the final version.
Of the three committee members, chairman Josh Schaer was part of the council majority when it voted to kill the bypass with a no-build decision. The other two committee members, Fred Butler and Eileen Barber, were the only ones who voted in February to continue with the bypass.
“The council’s decision was political,” Butler said. “It was based on anecdotal information rather than scientific analysis. Traffic continues to get worse and we have not identified an alternative that would address congestion and mobility in the downtown area.”
Butler’s comments generally reflect the language in the draft record of decision itself, which has angered bypass opponents with its pro-bypass tone and highly selective chronology.
“When I read the record of decision, I was a little shocked and dismayed at the way it was written,” resident Barbara Shelton said. “It sounded as though it was written by a proponent of the bypass, as opposed to a neutral party. It just didn’t seem like something that would come from a federal agency. It sounded like sour grapes.”
Shelton added that she believes the council’s decision truly was based on fact and done in the best interests of the community. She suggested the document should be edited to remove partisanship.
“Take out the statement that says this was a political decision,” Shelton said. “That is a disservice to our council.”
On the other side of the issue were former Mayor Rowan Hinds and Chad Magendanz, who said the decision was indeed political, and shortsighted, too.
“A recommendation to do nothing seems meaningless to me,” Magendanz said, urging that something be done to relieve north-south traffic through Issaquah, rather than let Second Avenue Southeast become a de facto bypass.
Former Councilman Hank Thomas, who maintains an encyclopedic archive of bypass documents at www.issaquahissues.us, said the record of decision needs to be written in such a way that the bypass could never be resurrected. The reason, he said, is that the studies done for the environmental impact statement were inadequate and incomplete, and that traffic studies never found a benefit from the bypass.
“I want this never, ever to be pulled off the shelf and used again,” Thomas said. “It can never come off the shelf in its current form.”
The citizens’ comments, plus others submitted in writing, will be included in a packet for review by the full council Dec. 15. Anyone wishing to send additional comments to the council should do so by the end of November, Schaer said.
Mail comments to:
P.O. Box 1307
City Hall South
135 E. Sunset Way
Issaquah, WA 98027
E-mail comments to
Reach Reporter Jon Savelle at 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org.