City Council ICW decisions | Island Forum
By ELLIOT NEWMAN
Mercer Island Reporter Contributor
July 20, 2010 · Updated 10:20 AM
It is with great sadness that I write this article. On June 21, the City Council, by a 4-3 vote, reversed their support for the Island Crest Way reconfiguration and decided to “un-fund” the project — stopping any further actions to change the road or the Merrimount intersection. Last December, when the City Council voted to reconfigure Island Crest Way from S.E. 53rd Street to S.E. 42nd Street and to modify the Merrimount Drive intersection, it ended one of the most comprehensive public input processes in our city. Public awareness began with an outcry from Island residents concerned with the number of accidents at the ICW-Merrimount intersection. Further study found that many of the intersections along the corridor were equally unsafe.
The decision to stop funding the ICW corridor last month was made without regard to sunk costs of over a quarter of a million dollars; extensive citizen testimony; and the recommendations of a Council-formed citizen panel, consulting traffic engineers and city staff. This action reversed three previous votes that supported the project. Less than an hour before, the Council had voted to have staff resolicit bids to implement the project! This “flip-flop” action reinforces the age-old public perception that elected officials do not consider the input and concerns of their constituents.
Many of us elected to serve on our Council have worked diligently during our terms to demonstrate that Mercer Island politics are different. However, it looks like times have changed. Reversing previous decisions in this manner probably violates the Washington Open Public Meetings Act of 1971. Evidently, even when a project passes three separate times, the majority of this Council feels no responsibility to accept the decision.
The main reasons for reconfiguring ICW are safety, safety and more safety: being able to use the ICW-Merrimount intersection safely, being able to take a left turn on or off ICW safely, being able to use a crosswalk along ICW safely and being able to enter and leave driveways safely. Repaving residential streets will not make the ICW corridor and all of the intersections and driveways along the present four-lane portion any safer. Transferring the funds presently allocated and available for improving the safety of ICW is a betrayal of the public trust and an overreaction to a potential fiscal problem recently discovered for the next biennium. Killing a project that just happened to be on the table is not a logical, prudent or responsible way to balance next year’s budget.