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New City Manager sets 2014 agenda
Between elections, talk of tolling and a changing Town Center, Mercer Island has seen many changes in the last year. We talked with Noel Treat, who on Monday, Jan. 6 was formally sworn in as city manager, to discuss the biggest issues facing the Island in 2014.
1. I-90 Work Plan: MI, to no surprise, will continue fighting tolling of I-90. Toward the end of 2013, the city council approved a work plan budget of $125,000 for the first quarter of 2014. Islanders briefly exhaled when the Senate Majority Coalition proposed a $12.3 billion transportation package that nixed the need for additional tolling, but without a resolution “fighting tolling will continue to be on the front burner,” says Treat.
Treat said the city will be particularly attuned to the EIS study and aims to hire another member of its I-90 Work Plan team in early 2014, a transportation expert to determine if imposed tolls will divert traffic, contrary to WSDOT’s predictions that it will thin congestion. “A transportation expert would help us look over the shoulder of the state,” explained Treat. “This is a key piece of work.”
2. Light Rail: In late 2014, Sound Transit (ST) will break ground on the R8A portion of East Link, a new HOV lane in I-90’s outer roadway. Though light rail’s arrival is nearly ten years out, Treat says the city will need to engage in learning and development of that project, in anticipation of the center lanes eventual closure and the transit hub that could become the north-end of MI.
The city will also take up the issue of the over-capacity Park-and-Ride, a project helped along by the up to $6 million ST has promised to mitigate the Island’s parking congestion.
3. Town Center: Many Islanders have lamented that there is no central focal point of the growing Town Center. In efforts to better hone a vision for downtown, the city will explore economic development initiatives to promote it as a civic center.
“A lot of that still has to be defined,” says Treat. “But council wants to discuss this idea...Is there something to focus on to further create a central space in the Town Center? Does there need to be different incentives, or a large plaza space?”
4. School Bonds and Growth: With two school propositions up for a vote in February, the city will need to be ready to help plan and permit any resulting projects. “We’re really working hard to be a partner to the school district,” said Treat.
The City Council will finalize its 2014 agenda at a planning session Jan. 24 through 26. See www.mercergov.org and go to the agendas and minutes tab on the left.