Newport Way improvement plan includes roundabouts
January 11, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
City to redo stretch near Issaquah Valley Elementary
Roundabouts could someday punctuate Newport Way Northwest under a plan the City Council adopted last week to upgrade the bustling corridor in the years ahead.
In a lopsided decision Jan. 3, the council agreed to pursue a plan to add roundabouts at the Northwest Juniper Street, Northwest Holly Street and Northwest Dogwood Street intersections. Planners also recommend extending another southbound lane to the corridor from West Sunset Way to Maple Street Northwest. The plan is designed to address projected congestion on the street in the coming decades.
Newport Way Northwest from West Sunset Way to Maple Street Northwest carries a single lane of traffic in each direction through a corridor bracketed by narrow shoulders, ditches and asphalt sidewalks.
The area also encompasses a school zone for Issaquah Valley Elementary School.
“There’s been extensive and exhaustive analysis that has gone into this, and considerable outreach and interest from some of the citizens in the vicinity of the project, and also the Issaquah School District,” Councilman Fred Butler said before the 4-2 decision.
The city has set aside more than $200,000 to design the proposed changes to the corridor. The design team must also develop a plan to fund right-of-way acquisition and construction for the project. The construction timeline remains undefined.
Councilwoman Eileen Barber, a former downtown merchant, recalled unfulfilled promises to upgrade the stretch in the past in order to alleviate traffic along Front Street and endorsed the proposed changes to Newport Way Northwest as a solution.
The decision to add roundabouts to the corridor rankled some council members.
“I’m not an engineer, but intuitively, from my experience of driving around, I can’t support this agenda bill due to the configuration recommended by the administration,” Council President John Traeger said.
Councilman Tola Marts said he paid special attention to the project because he has a child enrolled at Issaquah Valley Elementary. Despite Marts’ concerns about roundabouts, he said the upgrades could help to improve the corridor.
“If I could wave a magic wand, I would probably spend some more time addressing some of the concerns of some of my fellow council members whose opinions I respect very much,” he said. “Nonetheless, I will be supporting this bill tonight.”
Councilman Joshua Schaer opposed the proposal and alluded to the yearslong debate about the Southeast Bypass to describe the Newport Way Northwest decision.
(The plan to build the bypass across Tiger Mountain consumed more than a decade of study and $4 million of city money before the council nixed the proposed 1.1-mile roadway in February 2008.)
“Before we approve a design that would cost millions of dollars to serve vehicles in a one-mile corridor and provide benefits primarily applicable at peak hours, we should remember the lessons of another divisive road project with those same descriptions, and instead chose a design that builds — not breaks — consensus,” Schaer said. “The resulting cost of irrevocably changing the Newport Way corridor is simply too high.”
The latest effort to upgrade Newport Way Northwest through the corridor started more than a year ago.
The city has held a series of open houses to discuss the project. Council Transportation Committee members discussed the plan in meetings for months last year.
Planners said congestion on the street could increase by 2030, so the city has embarked on a plan to upgrade safety and traffic flow, pedestrian trails and storm water management through the corridor.
Options under consideration included the roundabouts or a widened road and traffic signals. Though earlier design proposals added medians to the corridor, council members asked for the strips not to be included in later plans.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.