Safety questions surface about I-90 trails link
November 24, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
A plan to add a bridge over Interstate 90 for bicyclists and pedestrians — a project with a nearly $6 million price tag — drew criticism from City Council members last week.
The project would complete a trail about 1,200 feet long, between the end of the state Route 900 boardwalk at the eastbound I-90 off-ramp on the south side of the interstate, and the Sammamish Trail on the north. But critics said overpasses at other locations would better serve pedestrians, and council members raised safety concerns about the project.
The project would complete a missing link and provide a way for bicyclists and pedestrians to traverse the interstate. The connector would also provide a link for bicyclists and pedestrians to the Issaquah Transit Center, about a half-mile south of the interstate.
The key pieces of the connector would include a separate 12-foot-wide pedestrian bridge crossing the westbound I-90 on-ramps and modifications to the existing state Route 900 overpass to install a 10-foot-wide pedestrian crossing. The northern terminus of the project would be Northwest Sammamish Road, while the southern terminus would be the I-90 eastbound off ramp, where the trail would connect with the boardwalk.
Next up: Council Transportation Committee members will discuss a proposal Dec. 3 to accept $400,000 from Sound Transit toward the project. The full council could consider the agreement Dec. 21.
Grant money — including $400,000 from Sound Transit — would pay for most of the connector project. About $350,000 in city funds would be allocated to the effort.
Councilman David Kappler raised safety concerns about the proposal during the Nov. 16 council meeting, when members voted 7-0 to send the agreement to the transportation committee.
“This is a $6 million project to facilitate bicycles and pedestrians to get across I-90,” Kappler said. “My concern with it is that it’s in the wrong place. Actually, it’s going to not be a very safe crossing for pedestrians and bicycles. It’s just going to complicate the transportation system along the 900 corridor.”
The longtime councilman and trails advocate said a pair of pedestrian crossings over the interstate is needed instead. Kappler proposed a link from Lake Sammamish State Park near Tibbetts Creek to link users into the regional trail network, and another overpass link, perhaps at 12th Avenue Northwest, a roadway split by I-90.
Kappler pointed out how the arrangement under consideration would require bicyclists and pedestrians to cross several lanes of traffic in order to reach the proposed connector. He said the northern terminus would be constructed in a spot where bicyclists already encounter trouble navigating amid traffic.
Councilman John Traeger agreed with the assessment.
“I would have to concur with Councilman Kappler that it’s in the wrong place, and it seems like it might not cost as much if it were put in the right place,” Traeger said.
Under the agreement, Sound Transit would contribute the $400,000 when the construction contract is awarded. City officials said construction should begin next year.
In a related project, crews will also build a manmade wetland in Emily Darst Park next year to replace wetlands destroyed when teams build the pedestrian bridge and the I-90 Undercrossing link between Northwest Gilman Boulevard and Southeast 56th Street.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.