Council puts aside reservations, accepts $400,000 trails grant
December 29, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
A planned bridge across Interstate 90 carries flaws, but the project will improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, City Council members said last week.
The council accepted a $400,000 Sound Transit grant to complete a $6 million link from the state Route 900 boardwalk at the eastbound I-90 off-ramp south of the interstate to the Sammamish Trail at the north end. Issaquah would contribute $341,000 toward the project; grant money will pick up most of the tab.
“We claim ourselves to be a walkable city, and this will help in that effort,” Councilwoman Eileen Barber said before the Dec. 21 vote.
Although council members raised safety questions about the connector, the council accepted the grant in a 6-1 vote. Councilman David Kappler, a longtime trails advocate, voted against the proposal.
Plans call for a separate 12-foot-wide pedestrian bridge across the westbound I-90 on-ramps and modifications to the existing state Route 900 overpass to install a 10-foot-wide pedestrian crossing.
“The major concern that I have is with safety,” Kappler said. “I hope over time I’m proven wrong on this, and that we’re going to take care of these issues, but so far I haven’t seen anything that does that.”
Kappler raised questions about the busy Northwest Sammamish Road and state Route 900 intersection, where the connector would route bicyclists and pedestrians.
“This intersection is plagued with left-turn and right-turn movements, it’s a twisted intersection as it is and it’s just a poor place to be putting these regional users,” he said.
Other council members said the project needed improvements, but voted to accept the Sound Transit grant. If the council had refused the grant, the city would have been required to repay consultant and design costs associated with the connector.
The city Capital Improvement Program — the voluminous roadmap for facilities, parks and transportation improvements — calls for construction to begin on the connector next year.
Former Councilwoman Nancy Davidson urged the council to meet a longstanding goal to improve trails throughout Issaquah.
“In my opinion, this is an opportunity to fix something identified five or six years ago by the City Council as a problem,” Davidson said. “We have trails on both sides of I-90, but very few facilities that actually connect those two.”
Getting Around Issaquah Together member Karen Behm urged the council to accept the grant and complete the bicyclist and pedestrian link.
“This is a good project addressing a significant shortfall in nonmotorized mobility in Issaquah,” she said.
Davidson said the proposed link would improve the quality of life in the city and facilitate “a connection for people that want to visit Lake Sammamish State Park and get to the Issaquah Alps — Cougar Mountain, Squak Mountain and those other mountains that people seem to enjoy.”
Kappler and Council President Maureen McCarry also questioned how the connector fit into long-term goals laid out in the Central Issaquah Plan, a document outlining growth and redevelopment in the commercial heart of the city along I-90.
“I think it’s a sad statement in terms of our central area plan,” McCarry said. “It only really serves a small portion of the central area plan and doesn’t really serve the rest of the area in terms of good access.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or email@example.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com