May 1, 2012
Interstate 90 off-ramps are less than welcoming
Issaquah has a lot going for it, enough that visitors come here year round, primarily for recreation. It’s appropriate that the city of Issaquah and the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce are targeting tourism with a renewed emphasis to encourage an economic rebound.
But there is one problem that needs to be addressed.
The entrances to the city from Interstate 90 are plain ugly. There is nothing welcoming about them, nothing that hints at the beauty visitors are about to discover if they take time to drive beyond a gas station, a bathroom and fast food.
The Interstate 90 off-ramps need help. Exit 18 to Sunset Way takes you past twin retention ponds and weeds. Exit 17 at Front Street has expansive weed patches. Exit 15 at state Route 900 is no better.
Other small towns have welcome signs, waterfalls, beautiful landscaping, helpful signage. Issaquah has nothing at its entrances.
The city has a new pedestrian overpass at Exit 17 that is crying for some art to set the stage. The salmon art on the overpass at Eastgate is nearly invisible. Can they be moved here? If not, can the city Arts Commission help fund something to put at our exits, something better than a wall of concrete?
The state Department of Transportation is responsible for most, if not all, of the wasteland, and the city has accepted that excuse, recognizing the state has no funds for improvements. But even when funds were available, the city didn’t champion the cause.
They should do so now. City Council members talk about partnering with the state to improve Lake Sammamish State Park, so they should be just as interested in trying to partner with the DOT. Both the expense of the beautification and its subsequent maintenance are points to consider.
City workers do a great job along city streets and a few intersections, but first impressions count. The off-ramps should become a priority if the city truly wants to bring new businesses and new visitors to Issaquah.