Mercer Island City Council directed to move forward with the Island Crest Way overlay and resurfacing project in two phases, removing the final roadblocks holding up a redesign of one of the Island's most important roadways.
After nearly a year in funding delays, the City Council voted 5-2 to allow the city to call for bids on the work, proposed to begin next June or July. Councilmembers Mike Cero and El Jahncke voted against the authorization.
"We're making a major change to our main arterial, and it's risky," Jahncke said. "Even to those who are supporters of this project, they admit that it's an experiment."
The project will eventually reduce the Island's primary north-south arterial to one lane each way with a center turning lane from SE 53rd Street near all the way up to SE 40th Street near the by the end of 2014. Planners estimate the project will cost $3,122,200 for the work to be divided into two phases scheduled for the summers of 2012 (SE 53rd Place to 86 Ave. SE) and 2014 (86th Ave SE to SE 40th Street). A related major water utility construction project will occur in 2013, also tying up parts of Island Crest Way. The improvements are intended to improve traffic flow while also dedicating bike lanes, bus zones out of the traffic lanes and numerous pedestrian improvements.
The Council with the project in January at a planning session, but balked at the extended timeline and cost at their last meeting, deadlocking over the proposal 3-3.
Several councilmembers, before casting their votes, voiced disapproval with the length of time it had taken to finally implement the reconfiguration of Island Crest Way, saying that an issue could be "talked to death".
"It's the Northwest way," Bassett wryly observed.
Councilmember Jane Brahm said she was voting purely on the merits of what was presented before her, not on settled policy that she couldn't vote on.
"The three-lane or four-lane question was already decided," she said. "I looked back through some old newspapers from 2007 and it was being discussed back then."
The proposal was also amended on a 6-1 vote to allow bidding on phase one to include resurfacing of Island Crest Way all the way up to Merrimount Drive as an option.
Mayor Jim Pearman said he supported the public process and appreciated the input he received from the various neighborhoods consulted, especially areas in the Mid-Island that expressed concerns about speeding and safety.
"This community is sensitive to change that's put forward — And this is a change," he said. "With respect to those neighbors and their safety, it's well worth the change."