Construction begins on state Route 900 trail link

August 10, 2010

By Paige Collins

The trail connector across Interstate 90 at state Route 900 is about to see the first stages of what is planned to be an eight-month project, city Public Works Engineering Director Bob Brock said.

Construction will build a freestanding structure for a nonmotorized trail from 12th Avenue Northwest to the I-90 off-ramp along the west side of state Route 900. The city of Issaquah has awarded a $4.4 million contract with C.A. Carey Corp. that allows for 180 working days, Brock said.

The connector is meant to allow for a safer path between the East Lake Sammamish Trail and the Issaquah Transit Center. The total price tag for the project is about $6 million.

Members of the community have differing opinions on the value, necessity and safety of the project, however.

Steve Williams, president of the Issaquah Alps Trails Club, said he has concerns about the volume of traffic in the area that pedestrians may now be drawn to. There are five lanes of traffic to cross at the I-90 eastbound exit, and drivers often try to make free right turns. That means they are looking left as they are moving right across a pedestrian walkway, he said.

“Those habits are going to be very hard to change,” Williams said, adding that he hopes to see flashers in the pavement to help with the safety.

The trail community is not only concerned with safety. Williams said there are other locations where the hikers need walkways more.

“Frankly, it’s a very expensive proposal for something that probably is going to be used more by shoppers and bike commuters than anything else,” Williams said.

The hikers would wish to see a connection between Squak and Cougar mountains across state Route 900 or a pedestrian crossing and protected wildlife crossing for Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast.

“From our perspective, it would have been more valuable to have raised roadway there in both places to solve the wildlife and the people problem, rather than serving a very small number of people in a very urban area that is not pleasant to walk in,” Williams said.

The cycling community is much more supportive of the project, as they were involved in its passing and wrote a letter of support, although they, too, have safety concerns, according to David Hiller, advocacy director for the Cascade Bicycle Club.

The same free-right turns at the I-90 east exit pose a threat for cyclists, he said, and then suggesting that it may be a nonissue once the project is completed.

“We think it’s a worthwhile project,” Hiller said. “It is an important connection in that community to access both the trails and the transit center.”

A redevelopment plan is in the works in that area as well, Hiller said, and he believes that the trail will be seen as important for redevelopment around the transit center.

Williams, on the other hand, said he believes that the money would have gone much further if put directly into public transportation. Sound Transit contributed $400,000 to the project.

Opinions aside, the project is about to be under way, as C.A. Carey has moved in a trailer and will soon receive notice to proceed.

Expected completion for the project is April 2011, Brock said.

Paige Collins: 392-6434 or isspress@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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