City Council OKs long-term road projects

May 8, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 6 a.m. May 8, 2010

City Council members approved the bible to all city transportation projects through 2016 — a roadmap to planned street and trails improvements known as the Transportation Improvement Program.

The list includes the Interstate 90 Undercrossing, a pedestrian connector to link trails across the interstate and along state Route 900, improvements to Newport Way Northwest and dozens of other projects.

The council held a hearing on the plan Monday, and then OK’d the list in a unanimous decision. Transportation projects must be listed in the plan in order to eligible for federal and state dollars, including money generated through the state gasoline tax and distributed to local governments.

Municipal staffers prioritize projects listed in the plan through a separate process to fund capital improvements. The council should approve the capital projects list by late spring.

City Transportation Manager Gary Costa said planners decided to schedule design work for some long-term projects earlier in order to make the proposals more competitive for outside funding.

“Because of the federal funds and the high competition for those dollars, projects that are ready to go are the ones that have been getting funded, and we’ve been losing out on some projects because they haven’t been ready to go,” he said.

Planners also attracted criticism for the number of proposed road projects.

Connie Marsh, a citizen activist and president of the Issaquah Environmental Council, said the plans outlined in the Transportation Improvement Program do not jibe with the vision officials describe for the city.

“What I notice every time that I look at the TIP is the difference between what the city says its goals are for creating a multimodal town where people can walk and bike and move around easily, and the projects that we always have on our TIP,” she said during the hearing.

The plan also includes a partnership between the city and Costco — the largest employer in Issaquah — to upgrade roads near Costco headquarters in northern Issaquah. The plan calls for $211,472 to continue work on a local improvement district — or a special taxing zone for property owners in the area near Costco headquarters — next year. The parties agreed in March to split the cost for a study on possible upgrades

But city officials and Costco executives will determine whether to advance the project after consultants complete the study. The council listed the possible partnership as a priority during a May 1 retreat to set goals for 2011.

“We don’t know yet, until we get through the process this year, whether or not it’s even going to be feasible to move forward with the LID,” Costa said. “Once we determine that, then next year we’ll be doing the more detailed analysis to know what the improvements would be.”

Under state law, Issaquah and other cities must form and approve a six-year transportation plan. The city will submit the list to the Puget Sound Regional Council — the transportation planning authority for King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties — by May 21 and to the state Department of Transportation by June 1.

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