Undercrossing opens to link north and south Issaquah

December 21, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Crews completed the Interstate 90 Undercrossing last week and opened the north-south connector to traffic Dec. 16. By Greg Farrar

The link between north and south Issaquah opened to traffic Dec. 16, after years of planning and months of construction.

The long-planned Interstate 90 Undercrossing — Fourth Avenue Northwest — runs from a traffic signal at the post office along Northwest Gilman Boulevard, connects into the rail corridor behind Gilman Station, forms a T-shaped intersection at Southeast 62nd Street, continues along 221st Place Southeast and then terminates at Southeast 56th Street.

Crews experienced a last-minute delay last month, after the installation of bridge safety railings lasted longer than expected. The city planned to open the connector around Dec. 6, but the slowdown prompted planners to update the schedule.

The link supplements traffic-clogged Front Street North and state Route 900, the other connectors between north and south Issaquah. Both older crossings also provide access to the interstate, but the combination of local traffic and vehicles from the on- and off-ramps add to the gridlock.

Because part of the undercrossing is located within the King County East Lake Sammamish Trail Corridor, the link also serves as a multimodal facility.

Pickering Trail also crosses Fourth Avenue Northwest at a signalized crossing, and then connects to the East Lake Sammamish Trail.

City Council members approved a $2.4 million budget for the project. The council picked Kirkland-based MidMountain Contractors to build most of the road link from the post office traffic signal along Northwest Gilman Boulevard to Southeast 56th Street. Issaquah-based Seacon agreed to construct another piece of the undercrossing in order to build the Issaquah Medical Building on the former Zetec site.

The project faced years of legal challenges and concerns about the potential impact on the environment before crews started construction in May.

The council set aside environmental concerns in January to amend a development agreement between the city and the U.S. Postal Service to alter city tree rules on land near the undercrossing.

The city and the postal service had negotiated the agreement to allow the city use of a right of way on the land, and the council approved the pact in August 2009.

If a developer builds on the land, construction could destroy more than the amount of trees allowed for removal under city code. Many questions remained unanswered, because officials do not know when or if development could occur.

Crews also built a manmade wetland in Emily Darst Park to replace wetlands destroyed during construction of the undercrossing and a pedestrian connector at the interstate and state Route 900.

The city had planned to start undercrossing construction in 2009, but issues related to environmental impact and right of way delayed the project.

Issaquah planners had hoped to snag stimulus dollars for the project. City officials pushed for the link to be included among the projects to be considered, but regional planners instead recommended projects closer to breaking ground.

The undercrossing proposal received high marks from the Puget Sound Regional Council, but unresolved right of way issues kept the project from receiving the planners’ nod.

If you go
Interstate 90 Undercrossing ribbon cutting
  • 8:30 a.m. Jan. 11
  • Fourth Avenue Northwest under the interstate near the Issaquah Post Office
  • Parking is available near the intersection of Northwest Gilman Boulevard and Northwest Juniper Street just east of the red caboose, but space is limited.

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

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