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South-end trail coming

Work will soon restart on a South-end trail along Island Crest Way that came to a halt after several trees were cut down and the project cost and scope changed from the City Council’s original intent.

Last Monday, the Council approved spending an additional $35,000 more than the original $100,000 set to construct a meandering gravel trail between S.E. 71st and 78th Streets on Island Crest Way. While that cost does not include new landscaping, there are funds available through a county grant. The landscaping will not begin until after the trail is completed in September.

“Trees have to be planted during the winter months,” said maintenance director Glenn Boettcher in response to a Council member’s question. “We have a replanting plan that you would see a little bit later this year with planting in the fall or early winter. We will be replanting trees, but they have to be done in cold weather.”

The five-foot-wide trail will be topped with 5/8-inch gravel suitable for recreational bikes, commonly used by children, and most strollers. The gravel will not accommodate wheelchairs or road bikes.

However, city maintenance staff said most cyclists would use the road given the gravel surface, pedestrians and lower traffic volumes compared to other sections of Island Crest Way.

Merrimount

Change is coming to Island Crest Way and Merrimount again, although changing lanes south of the intersection will no longer be possible once the revision is completed around the end of the year.

Last Monday, the City Council approved a new design for Island Crest Way from S.E. 42nd to 53rd Street that reduces the roadway to two lanes with a shared center turn lane.

The configuration through the intersection will include a merge lane for northbound traffic turning left from Merrimount and a left-turn lane for northbound traffic to take a left on Merrimount. Turns onto from either direction 44th will still be prohibited.

City engineer Patrick Yamashita said he hopes to start and finish the changes this year.

The Council appropriated $541,000 for the job while Yamashita said the lowest cost scenario would cost $325,000. The additional funds could be used to install and landscape new traffic islands, a short sidewalk from a crosswalk just south of the Merrimount/44th Street intersection, or adding additional shoulder space at the bus stops in that span of Island Crest Way.

Last fall, the city installed temporary revisions to improve the safety of the Island’s most dangerous intersection. Engineers and consultants spent more than six months monitoring the changes and found that average speeds and the number of accidents decreased in the intersection. The consultants also said those improved speeds and accident rates would remain with the new design and that existing throughput would continue as is.

In addition to the traffic revisions, the new design of the intersection includes some pedestrian islands in the center of the roadway.

Sustainability plan

In addition to instituting a rewards program for department directors and their staff who find ways to reduce costs through sustainable practices, the city has designated $50,000 toward retrofitting public buildings to improve energy and water conservation.

The city budgeted $60,000 for its sustainability work plan, which includes new scorecards to track how the city and its departments are reducing carbon emissions, and the reward program that gives City Manager Rich Conrad the incentive to encourage his staff in reducing energy consumption and emissions.

Councilmember Mike Grady suggested funds also be used to assist private home and business owners in reducing their energy and water consumption. After establishing practical measures within public buildings, Grady said, the city could show homeowners how they can conserve energy and provide some materials to do so.

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