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City moves ahead with ICW changes

A diagram of the proposed road-diet plan for Island Crest Way, Option C3, approved by City Councilmembers last Monday, Dec. 7.  - Contributed artwork
A diagram of the proposed road-diet plan for Island Crest Way, Option C3, approved by City Councilmembers last Monday, Dec. 7.
— image credit: Contributed artwork

Despite split vote, ‘road diet’ decision sets work in motion

In the week since Mercer Island City Councilmembers approved the three-lane road diet option for Island Crest Way, City Hall has been a quiet place, according to City Manager Rich Conrad.

“It’s actually been amazingly quiet here. I’ve had zero comments,” Conrad said. “I did get two Ccd e-mails from staff, both thankful and complimentary of the decision, and a third one urging the Council not to go ahead with the [road diet], which is a little late.”

Indeed, now that the decision has been passed, Islanders have quieted down after months of heated opinion over what the city should do to improve the dangerous intersection at Merrimount and Island Crest Way (ICW). The road-diet option chosen, Councilmembers assert, is the safest and most fiscally and logistically sound. It has been researched and supported by engineers, city staff members and an appointed citizens panel. In summary, the approved reconfiguration is as follows:

Island Crest Way will be restructured into a three-lane roadway between Merrimount Drive and the 5300 block, although the exact slimming point has yet to be determined. Right now, city planners expect the road to shift from four lanes into three just south of S.E. 42nd Street. ICW will remain four lanes between Merrimount and its northern end.

The three-lane belt will include a northbound, south-bound and middle turning lane, each approximately 11 feet wide. A pedestrian sidewalk of 6 to 8 feet in width will line both sides of the road. There will be four pedestrian crossing points with protective median islands allowing people to safely stop mid-way across ICW. A new pedestrian crossing signal will also be added to the crosswalk at S.E. 42nd Street, which has been a particularly dangerous point in the past.

Crosswalk lighting and other safety features — such as potential new speed limits — have yet to be discussed, but are in the plan, said Assistant City Engineer Anne Tonella-Howe.

“After the [Dec. 7] Council meeting, people asked about street lighting — especially at crosswalks. Our response was, yes, that’s going to be part of the design process. We will make sure we have adequate lighting levels,” she said. “The same thing holds true for sight distance at a couple of the side streets. We may have to trim a couple of trees in the construction process. There are lots of things we need to consider as we step into the design of the corridor.”

Despite past rumor, there will not be bike lanes along the new Island Crest Way or striping along the sides of the road. But there will be four areas of widened roadway for bus pull-out: just north of S.E. 48th Street, S.E. 47th Street, S.E. 46th Street and S.E. 44th Street.

Currently, the estimated project cost is $650,000. The Council has asked city staff to develop a project scope, schedule and budget. Staff will return to the Council with this information sometime in February.

“Once the Council decides how quickly they want to move forward [with ICW reconstruction], the project will be wrapped up in the Transportation Improvement Process that starts in March 2010,” said Tonella-Howe.

For details and background on the community discussion about this project, go to our Web site: www.mi-reporter.com. More information on the ICW road diet is available on the city’s Web site: www.mercergov.org.

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