Merrimount decision to be revisited

It turns out that the city’s recent decision to reduce Island Crest Way to three lanes south of Merrimount Drive may not stick, as members of the City Council want to revisit the project in the coming weeks.

Toward the end of its previous meeting on July 21, the Council suggested to city staff that it wanted to reconsider its vote to let residents weigh in on the proposal before the Council finalized the decision.

According to a statement released by the city’s communication’s coordinator, Joy Johnston, the Council requested further review and public outreach regarding its plan for Island Crest Way near Merrimount in order to evaluate the three-lane configuration. Johnston said the city will be gathering public input and data in the coming months before making another decision. Mayor Jim Pearman said the Council wanted to reopen the public process regarding the approved road diet.

“We’re just looking for the best solution. All [residents] know it is a change that they didn’t have the opportunity to weigh in on or get the proper education about,” the mayor said. “We want to open it up again, but that doesn’t mean we are ultimately going to change [our decision].”

Earlier this summer, the Council approved a project to reconfigure the portion of Island Crest Way between the 4100 and 5300 blocks into three lanes, one lane going each direction with a center left-turn lane, as part of its six-year road improvement plan. The decision would have fortified and “dressed up” the existing configuration, which prevents crossing the intersection from Merrimount to S.E. 44th Street and southbound left turns onto 44th. The decision to revise Merrimount and Island Crest came in response to citizen calls to make the intersection safer after there was an increase in bad accidents. The city considered several options, including a traffic signal, but engineers ended up recommending that the city test the current set up.

City and consulting traffic engineers told the Council during its road improvement planning meetings that their six-month study of the new intersection determined that it made the intersection safer and did not reduce throughput.

The consultants also suggested that the lane reduction enabled the city to add a few safe pedestrian crossings with protective islands in the center roadway.

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