Work to begin on ‘road diet’

The much-disputed narrowing of Island Crest Way, centered at the intersection of Merrimount at S.E. 44th Street, aka the ‘road diet,’ is about to become a reality.

Discussions to ‘shrink’ the roadway at that awkward point, the site of many serious accidents, began in 2007. The goal was to make the problematic intersection safer for both turning traffic and pedestrians. City planners and the Council expected to use observation and study to decide if the idea should be expanded along the corridor.

However, at a City Council meeting almost exactly a year ago, the City Council — through a series of motions and amendments — voted to strip the plan of its funding after more than four years of debate. The project was essentially shelved.

Now a year later, as the city’s transportation plans are being set for the next biennium, the City Council will approve a bid for the work at their regular meeting last Monday evening after Reporter deadline.

There were just two bidders for the project. Lakeside Industries has the lower bid. The project cost will be finalized based on the amount of landscaping and pedestrian improvements that the Council approves.

According to City Manager Rich Conrad, it is the same project as when the ‘road diet’ decision was made last April. The bids came in more than $200,000 less than estimated last year, when the Council gave the go-ahead to bid and plan construction for 2012 through 2014.

First up will be the resurfacing and restriping of Island Crest Way between S.E. 53rd and Merrimount. Next will come restriping from Merrimount north to S.E. 42nd Street without repaving, which will be done at a later date. At the end of this first year of construction, Island Crest Way southbound will be reduced from four lanes at S.E. 40th to three at S.E. 42nd Street, then to two lanes at S.E. 53rd Street at Island Park School and beyond .

Conrad noted that many cities have made the change from four lanes to three with a center turn lane.

“The traffic continues to move well (in three lanes rather than four) and the lanes will be slightly wider,” he said.

Islander Elliot Newman, who was involved in the citizen task force organized by the city to evaluate changes needed at the intersection, said he was glad to see that the changes will finally be implemented.

“It will definitely be better than what we have,” he said.

It should go a long way to being a solution to problems along Island Crest Way and not just those at Merrimount, he added.

He still remembers the Council meeting a year ago that ‘hijacked’ the implementation of the changes on the roadway for what he said was “political purposes.”

But that is in the past.

He points out that Island drivers already make the change from four lanes to three after they cross 40th Street going southbound, in order to get ready for the narrowing at Merrimount.

“This is a safety issue,” he said, “and a good use of public money.”


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