City submits six-year TIP

Mercer Island Councilmembers approved the city’s six-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) last month, with a priority focus on improving Island streets. The 2010-2015 plan has been months in the development. In total, the plan will cost $23 million to fix up residential, Town Center and arterial streets, with a focus on widening the Mercer Way shoulders and improving the Island’s bicycle and pedestrian layout. This number, however, may change over the coming years.

The City Council approved the TIP on June 15, two weeks after Islanders had the opportunity to review the plan at a June 1 open house. The final draft was submitted to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the Puget Sound Regional Council last Wednesday.

Mercer Island Transportation Manager Nick Afzali said he was satisfied with the outcome.

“I am happy with the plan. As you know, these are challenging times in terms of revenue. We’re relying quite a bit on REET [Real Estate Excise Tax] revenue. We had to cut some corners, but overall I think it’s a very solid plan,” said Afzali. “Hopefully, if the economy gets better next year, we can make some adjustments.”

In essence, the plan will upgrade Island streets and trails, neighborhood by neighborhood, based on need over the coming six years. This will cost a total of $4.3 million. Town Center street improvements will focus on 76th and 78th Avenues S.E., creating a traffic signal at S.E. 27th Street and repaving 80th Avenue S.E., S.E. 29th Street and S.E. 32nd Street. The downtown street improvements will not begin until 2011 and will cost a total of $1.5 million. Arterial street improvement costs $4.4 million.

Widening the East Mercer Way shoulder for cyclists is a TIP priority. In fact, Councilmembers voted specifically to add the East Mercer Way widening project (from S.E. 53rd Place to S.E. 54th Street) to the 2010-2015 plan. The estimated cost of this project is $170,000.

The bicycle and pedestrian improvement plan includes the Island’s Safe Routes to School project, improving pedestrian access along Island Crest Way, S.E. 40th Street, Mercerwood Drive and 72nd Avenue S.E. It is set to cost $1.06 million.

Other areas of the TIP include improving signage along East and West Mercer Ways, tree maintenance, right-of-way inspections and a neighborhood traffic calming program.

The amount for the TIP overhead is based on 4 percent of project costs. These numbers, however, may be adjusted before the City Council’s mid-biennial budget review in November.

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