Road upgrades near Costco could smooth traffic, but at a high price

December 14, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

The city, Costco and other landowners could take initial steps in the months ahead to upgrade roads in North Issaquah.

City and Costco planners funded a transportation study in March to determine ways to better link the Pickering Place area into the street grid. The just-released preliminary report suggests tens of millions in transportation spending for road extensions and additional lanes to improve access to the dense business cluster just north of Interstate 90 and state Route 900. If the proposal progresses, any construction is years in the future.

“There is a lack of access to a significant portion of that that really limits the economic activity in there and the potential within that area for economic development,” transportation consultant Steve Nolen said in a Nov. 30 presentation to City Council members.

The city and Costco, the largest employer in Issaquah, split the $63,736 cost to study potential transportation enhancements in the area near the bustling Costco warehouse and corporate headquarters. Costco employs about 2,700 people in Issaquah.

Costco and other landowners in the affected area could form a local improvement district and then shoulder the costs for transportation upgrades. The city also owns property in the area under consideration.

The proposal is far from a done deal.

The price tag to form a local improvement district is estimated at about $425,000 — assuming landowners agree to the proposal. City Public Works Engineering Deputy Director Sheldon Lynne said the city had received a mixed reception from potential partners.

If the proposal proceeds, the steps to form a district could start in early 2011.

Nolen said a local improvement district — and the subsequent upgrades — is designed to increase property value in the designated area.

“That increase in value — which is called special benefit — is essentially a measure of property value before the improvements are built and property value after the improvements are built,” he said.

The scenario Nolen presented at the Committee-of-the-Whole Council meeting outlined $38.5 million in upgrades to Southeast 62nd Street, 221st Place Southeast, 12th Avenue Northwest and East Lake Sammamish Parkway Southeast. The preliminary study indicated the upgrades could improve traffic flow on the valley floor.

The proposed price tag raised eyebrows among council members.

“The approach we took with estimating all of the costs were to be conservative, and by that I mean that we didn’t want surprises later on,” Nolen said. “We didn’t lowball any costs in our estimates.”

Before crews could break ground on any of the projects, additional environmental studies must be conducted — assuming the landowners in the area agree to form a local improvement district to fund the upgrades.

“You’ve got to spend a few hundred thousand dollars to get to that level of detail for this order of magnitude of a project,” Lynne said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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