Council approves transportation plan

May 24, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Proposal outlines repairs to weakened retaining wall

City Council members laid out a roadmap for Issaquah transportation projects May 2.

The council adopted the Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP, a guide to short- and long-term planning for road, transit and pedestrian projects. The document outlines possible transportation projects for 2012-17.

“Having a project on the TIP makes it eligible for certain types of funding, but more broadly, it signals to the community what improvements we’re considering for the future,” Councilman Joshua Schaer said before the unanimous decision.

The city Public Works Engineering Department lists transportation projects in the TIP, and then prioritizes the projects through a separate process to fund capital improvements.

Transportation planners outlined possible improvements to the timber retaining wall along Southeast Black Nugget Road behind Fred Meyer and The Home Depot.

Some timbers started to dislodge, rot is prevalent, pressure distorted some pilings and the fence atop the wall is failing. The city attributes the problems to shoddy construction. The timber was cut too short and too thin for the area. In addition, the structure was not properly treated.

King County could provide some funding to offset the estimated $496,000 repair cost.

“We’ve been talking with King County for a couple of years now, and we’re very close to reaching an agreement with them whereby we can receive some funds fairly quickly, with the possibility of additional funds over an undetermined period of time,” Public Works Engineering Director Bob Brock told the council.

Soggy conditions caused a landslide on the North Issaquah slope behind Fred Meyer and The Home Depot last month. The sidewalk along the Southeast Black Nugget Road retaining wall was closed as a precaution. Officials said the landslide did not pose a risk to homes atop the hill.

Other proposals outlined in the TIP include a continued commitment to a program to confront traffic congestion in neighborhoods, a separate effort to repave streets, and a proposal to acquire additional right of way and upgrade the Interstate 90 Undercrossing near Southeast 62nd Street and 221st Place Southeast. The undercrossing opened to vehicles in December.

Councilman Fred Butler praised the undercrossing — a north-south road linking Northwest Gilman Boulevard to East Lake Sammamish Parkway Southeast.

“The work that has been done to date has been very well-received, and people are using that to shave off time from getting from one side of I-90 to the other without going through the two interchanges at Front Street and SR 900,” he said.

Other improvements near the undercrossing hinge on a decision among the city, Costco and other landowners in the area to form a local improvement district to upgrade roads in North Issaquah. Landowners in the affected area could form such a district and then shoulder the costs for transportation projects.

The city and Costco, the largest employer in Issaquah, last year split the $63,736 cost to study potential transportation enhancements. The study recommended the parties proceed and build a framework for the local improvement district, although a decision has yet to be made.

“If it does not get formed, then it would take next year to finish that, and then we’d be ready the following year to go forward with the rest of the project,” city Transportation Manager Gary Costa said.

The transportation plan also proposes funding for Complete Streets, a city program to create corridors for bicyclists, motorists, pedestrians, and transit riders of all ages and abilities.

“Looking at 2012, I’m encouraged by the listed restoration of funding to both street overlay and Complete Streets,” Schaer said. “I’m not as excited about $1 million for the Newport Maple-to-Sunset corridor, which still doesn’t need improvements for about 20 more years.”

Plans call for widening Newport Way Northwest near Issaquah Valley Elementary School to improve movement through the corridor and alleviate downtown traffic congestion.

Though the council held a public hearing before the TIP decision, no speakers addressed the issue. The city also rolled out the proposal for the public at the Planning Policy Commission and the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce Transportation Task Force.

Under state law, Issaquah and other cities must form and approve a long-term transportation plan. Costa said the city plans to submit the plan to the Puget Sound Regional Council by May 20 and to the state Department of Transportation by June 1.

Though the plan proposes tens of millions in transportation spending, the city can complete only a fraction of the projects in a single year. In addition, funding for many projects hinges on state and federal grants. Projects must be listed in the TIP in order to be eligible for gasoline tax revenue.

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