November 6, 2012

Shoppers deserve traffic solutions

There are two messy traffic jams that occur in Issaquah, primarily on busy weekend shopping days. With the arrival of the holiday shopping season, these locations will only get worse. While you may have others in mind, we think you’d agree these two are tops for driver annoyance.

Both spots are in the heart of shopping centers.

No. 1 honors go to the ingress/egress to Lake Sammamish Center near The Home Depot. The traffic signal and Interstate 90 Undercrossing help drivers move in and out of the area, but getting out of the parking lot from the south side is a lesson in frustration. Often the only option is to circle away from the exit and try again from a new angle. The only saving grace is that there are no pedestrians in the midst of this tangle of cars.

The intersection on Northwest Maple Street in the heart of the Issaquah Commons is the second-most hazardous traffic jam in town.

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Signal comes online along Interstate 90 Undercrossing

January 24, 2012

Crews installed a traffic signal to facilitate access to the almost-completed Issaquah Medical Building.

The complex, 1301 Fourth Ave. N.W., is along the Interstate 90 Undercrossing. The building is due to open to the public next month.

Pedestrians using the Pickering Trail can use a button to activate the signal for safer crossings.

The undercrossing is a north-south road linking Northwest Gilman Boulevard to East Lake Sammamish Parkway Southeast. Officials opened the connector to traffic in late 2010.

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Longtime city public works director retires

November 8, 2011

Bob Brock is not a household name in Issaquah, but projects the former Public Works Engineering director oversaw reshaped the landscape — bridges across Issaquah Creek designed to ease flooding and road projects meant to alleviate traffic congestion.

Brock, 64, retired as the top engineering official in the city Nov. 4 after a lifetime spent in public works roles in California, Wyoming and, for the past dozen years, in Issaquah.

“I’m more of a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. It’s never been my forte to be up there in a suit and tie and everything and being in the foreground,” he said in pre-retirement interview. “I personally like to let my very capable staff get the exposure, No. 1, and the experience to share. It’s them that makes me successful.”

Since joining the city staff in May 1999, Brock supervised road and other infrastructure projects as the city added 19,000 residents through annexations and a home-building boom. Controversy also defined the area, as activists, leaders and residents debated the Southeast Bypass, a proposed road along Tiger Mountain designed to reduce downtown traffic headaches.

Brock led 30 or so Public Works Engineering Department employees from a corner office in City Hall Northwest. The space overlooks a recent city project, a pedestrian connector across Interstate 90 at state Route 900.

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Joshua Schaer is not afraid to disagree

October 11, 2011

On a City Council often united in 7-0 decisions, Joshua Schaer is the occasional outlier.

The councilman opposed a hike in cable rates, a redo along Newport Way Northwest and proposed changes to the same street near Issaquah Valley Elementary School. The opposition earned Schaer a grudging respect from council members — and a reputation for outspokenness.

“I’m not trying to be contrarian, and I’m not trying to be difficult, but you can’t have 7-0 votes on every issue,” he said.

Joshua Schaer

Now, as a candidate for a second term on the council, Schaer highlights the no votes just as much as accomplishments.

The councilman, 33, spearheaded a food-packaging ordinance to require restaurateurs and other food sellers to use compostable and recycle takeout containers and utensils.

The legislation is a signature issue as Schaer heads from door to door to greet potential supporters. Newcomer TJ Filley is the other candidate in the race for the Position 4 seat.

“I can’t take credit for the original idea, because it started in a lot of cities. Portland has been doing it for 20 years. Cities in California have been doing it for many years. Seattle was really the model that I looked at,” Schaer said. “If it can work in Seattle with the size of that city, then certainly it can work in Issaquah, where we are leaders in environmental preservation and sustainability. To be the first city on the Eastside to do this, I think, is a tremendous accomplishment.”

The measure caused some heartburn among business leaders, and the rollout continues to face difficulties almost a year after the ordinance took effect. Still, Schaer said the ordinance is a milestone for a city focused on sustainability.

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Construction starts on Darst Park pedestrian path

June 14, 2011

Crews are scheduled to start building a pedestrian path through Emily Darst Park soon.

The city awarded a contract to Sammamish-based WB Contracting for the project, part of the mitigation for the Interstate 90 Undercrossing project. Plans called for crews to upgrade the park to replace wetlands destroyed during construction of the undercrossing and a pedestrian connector at the interstate and state Route 900.

The path should be completed by June 30. Planners issued a notice for the contractor to proceed May 19.

The park encompasses 12 acres on the east bank of Issaquah Creek, south of Pickering Barn and north of the interstate. The regional East Lake Sammamish Regional Trail follows the park’s eastern boundary and the Pickering Trail traverses the property.

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Council approves transportation plan

May 24, 2011

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.

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Council to host hearing on proposed road projects

April 26, 2011

The long-term plan to upgrade Issaquah roads reaches City Council members May 2 — and residents can offer input on the proposal.

Officials plan a public hearing on the Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP.

The hearing presents residents and landowners with a chance to offer input on the sweeping document that outlines 33 transportation projects though 2016.

The list does not include as many big-ticket projects as in past years — a result of council belt-tightening in the 2011 municipal budget.

Still, items outlined in the proposal could alleviate traffic congestion, offer motorists a smoother ride and improve the popular Interstate 90 Undercrossing, plus dozens of other road projects.

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City Council adjusts undercrossing budget

March 8, 2011

Interstate 90 Undercrossing

The budget for the Interstate 90 Undercrossing received some adjustments from the City Council late last week to account for cost overruns.

The council had authorized $2.96 million to complete the north-south connector. The council increased the total by $16,000 in a unanimous decision Feb. 22.

The increase uses unallocated project dollars, funds from utility companies and city dollars set aside for a traffic-calming program.

The council awarded the initial construction contract for the undercrossing last March, and then awarded a construction contract for another piece last July.

The project required more excavation than planners had anticipated in order to build a stable base for the roadway.

Planners did not anticipate the additional excavation based on the soil conditions at the site. The rain-soaked summer exacerbated the problem.

In addition, utility companies asked to install lines in a trench created as part of the undercrossing project.

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Mayor predicts ‘momentous year’ in State of the City speech

February 15, 2011

City is poised to complete long-term projects in coming months

Mayor Ava Frisinger offered a bold prediction for the year in the State of the City address last week.

“2011 will undoubtedly be a momentous year for Issaquah — one that will not only reinforce the importance of our day-to-day business, but will also celebrate our larger accomplishments,” she said during the Feb. 7 address.

The can-do speech highlighted projects scheduled for completion in the months ahead, including the city-coordinated zHome townhouses and a landmark effort to outline redevelopment in the 915-acre business district.

“2010 sets high expectations for this year, and I am confident that we can meet them,” Frisinger said. “Our list of goals for 2011 is extremely impressive and yet very feasible.”

The annual address — like the spring City Council goal-setting session and the autumn budget announcement — helps city leaders outline priorities for the public.

Frisinger used the speech to shine a spotlight on long-term efforts on track to mark milestones.

The city is poised to complete the long-running effort to preserve forested Park Pointe on Tiger Mountain soon.

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Mayor highlights accomplishments in State of the City address

February 8, 2011

NEW — 10 a.m. Feb. 8, 2011

Mayor Ava Frisinger offered a bold prediction for the months ahead in the State of the City address Monday night.

“2011 will undoubtedly be a momentous year for Issaquah — one that will not only reinforce the importance of our day-to-day business, but will also celebrate our larger accomplishments, ” she said.

The can-do speech highlighted projects scheduled for completion in the months ahead, including the city-coordinated zHome townhouses and a landmark effort to outline redevelopment in the 915-acre business district.

Frisinger used the annual address to shine a spotlight on other long-term efforts.

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