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As summer ends, more road construction begins

As summer road projects wrap up, more work along East Mercer and Island Crest Way is scheduled to begin next month as students head back to class.

Island Crest Way and Merrimount

New traffic improvements at the intersection of Island Crest Way and Merrimount Drive will be a significant change since it is one of the Island’s busiest intersections. The city will be re-striping the intersection and installing new curbs and turtle bumps to restrict certain unsafe traffic movements. While Island Crest Way is a main arterial on the Island, Merrimount and 44th connect West Mercer Way to the high school, library and various surrounding churches.

The modifications to the roadway will reduce Island Crest Way to single lanes in each direction through the intersection, and vehicles will no longer be able to cross the intersection from Merrimount onto S.E. 44th Street or vice versa. Vehicles heading southbound on Island Crest in the right lane will be required to turn right onto Merrimount. The left lane of Island Crest way in the northbound direction will require drivers to turn left onto Merrimount. Similarly, drivers heading west on S.E. 44th will be required to take a right onto Island Crest, going north. Traffic on Merrimount will be able to go either north or south onto Island Crest Way.

The city is holding an open house, drop-in meeting at 7 p.m., Sept. 6, at City Hall to display the upcoming changes. There will be pictures of the designed changes, and residents may discuss the project with city leaders and planners. A 15-minute presentation of the project and implementation process will be given at 7 p.m.

Construction will begin in late September or early October, and the entire project, including the post-construction safety analysis, will cost $85,000.

In addition to the roadway modifications, the city will install a video camera at the intersection to monitor traffic patterns after the changes are made. The city plans to review the intersection for six months and will monitor safety improvements or the lack thereof at the intersection. Changes in driving habits and traffic flows will also be monitored and documented as part of the review. There will be a public comment period next spring after the six month review is completed. According to Joy Bueling, the city’s communications coordinator, the city is asking residents to try out the changes at the six-month review period.

“Let’s just try it out and see how it goes,” Bueling said.

Funds for a traffic light are still included in the 2009 road improvement budget, but this project is a test of temporary, incremental improvements that may become permanent.

East Mercer Way shoulders

On the east perimeter of the Island, construction crews will continue to widen East Mercer Way during the next few months.

Shoulder-widening phases four and five, expected to take place this fall, will add additional shoulder space on East Mercer Way from Ferncroft Road in the 4600 block to S.E. 53rd Street.

The city is currently accepting bids, and the City Council is expected to approve the bid winner at its Sept. 17 meeting. City engineers expect the cost to come in around $330,000. The city is asking contractors to bid for two sections, from Ferncroft to S.E. 50th and from 50th to 53rd Place. If the bids come in higher than expected, then city staff will recommend that the Council approve the first one to S.E. 50th and possibly appropriate the necessary funds at a later date to complete the project to 53rd Place.

The project will continue to add asphalt on the roadside shoulders where ditches or gravel currently exist. These next two phases will bring approximately 2,500 to 3,500 feet of shoulder along East Mercer Way.

The work required includes some asphalt removal, excavation, drainage pipe installation, catch basin installation, asphalt paving, utility adjustments and pavement marking. The project may last through the rest of the year.

The shoulder additions are an ongoing project, the Roadside Shoulder Development Program, which the city began five years ago.

During the 2002 road improvement sessions, the Council established the program to construct new roadside shoulders that would be suitable for pedestrian and bicycle usage along the Mercer Ways.

Shoulders were first added on West Mercer Way from S.E. 28th Street to Merrimount Drive in 2003, costing $200,000. Two phases of shoulder construction took place on North Mercer in 2004 and 2005, costing an additional $200,000 total. The first two phases on East Mercer also occurred in 2004 and 2005, costing another $200,000.

In all, the total shoulder improvements will cost over $1 million. To date, seven roadside shoulder projects have been constructed: three on North Mercer Way, three on East Mercer Way and one on West Mercer Way. The North Mercer Way projects constructed over 4,100 feet of paved shoulder at a total cost of $466,000. On East Mercer Way, three projects have created 6,400 feet of shoulder for $366,000. The North Mercer shoulders cost an average of $112 per foot, while the East Mercer shoulders cost an average of $60 per foot.

City staff has also proposed completing two more East Mercer Way shoulder projects, phase six in 2009 and phase seven in 2011. Those would cost an additional $276,000. Phase six would extend the shoulder another 1,200 feet to reach S.E. 53rd Place, which may be fit into phase five. Phase seven would begin a new shoulder south of the S.E. 53rd Place intersection.

In a separate project on East Mercer Way, construction crews will also be adding new guardrails along three segments of East Mercer Way. The hair-pin turns near Ferncroft Road, Fernridge Lane and the North Star driveway are adjacent to steep slopes on the east side of the roadway.

The city is currently designing the rails and plans to have the projects completed by the end of the year. The guardrails will cost $90,000.

South end overlay

The majority of the road work surrounding the South end shopping center has been completed, according to transportation engineer Patrick Yamashita.

The paving at the South end was finished in early August and the project will be finished in September after completing some minor work, such as adjusting utility covers to the new pavement grade and the clean up, Yamashita said.

Roads were closed at the end of July for paving, and the contractor put in new pavement markings on S.E. 68th and 71st streets and 84th Avenue S.E. The markings include lane markings, stop bars and crosswalks.

On S.E. 71st Street, new markings which will create two shared lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists along the roadway were not in place as of last Friday.

The city will add those markings in the coming weeks. Roads will be reduced to one-lane traffic intermittently to provide the striping crews with room to work.

The new bicycle lanes will be on both sides of the roadway and street parking in those lanes will now be prohibited. The bike and pedestrian lanes will be five feet wide on both sides of 71st Street. The City Council decided to add the bike lanes at its June 5 meeting because of the street’s proximity to Islander Middle School and the shopping center.

The total cost of the project was $275,000, and there will be new signs on the roadside as well.

Town Center traffic light at S.E. 27th and 77th

Last June, the City Council postponed the construction of a traffic signal in the Town Center for at least another year. Instead, Council members decided to have city staff install the underground infrastructure necessary for a future light at S.E. 27th and 77th Avenue.

The utilities will be installed in conjunction with sidewalk and other improvements constructed by the 7700 Central redevelopment project currently under construction across from The Mercer.

The decision to add the traffic light will come before the Council again next spring during its annual transportation improvement sessions.

The cost of installing the utilities will be around $100,000. The traffic signal construction will take place in 2008 or 2009 or later and will cost $235,000.

In the meantime, city staff will evaluate the traffic conditions of the Town Center following the future completion of the two new mixed-use developments currently under construction. The Council will also discuss the level of road and pedestrian access for the Town Center as a Comprehensive Plan Amendment. The Council may decide to make the roads in the Town Center more pedestrian-friendly to discourage vehicular travel through downtown.

Proponents for a traffic light say it would help ease congestion in the Town Center while increasing safety for pedestrians at its busiest intersection. The four corners include The Mercer, Tabit Square, Walgreens and the future 7700 Central. Vehicles exiting I-90 onto 77th also contribute to the backups.

Open House

The City is holding an open house at 7 p.m., Sept. 6, at City Hall to display the upcoming changes at the intersection of Merrimount. and Island Crest Way.

There will be pictures of the design changes, and residents may discuss the project with city leaders and planners. A 15-minute presentation of the project will begin at 7 p.m.

For more information on city road and park projects go to

www.mercergov.org/cip.

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