Letters to the Editor

Letter | ICW ‘road diet’ poses risk for seniors

When the idea of an ICW ‘road diet’ surfaced some years ago, citizens opposed to the scheme were able to convince the City Council to drop the proposal.

Much to the surprise of Mercer Islanders, the City Council voted to resurrect the unpopular ‘road diet,’ now named the ICW Corridor Project, at the June 21, 2010, meeting as part of the 2011-2016 TIP.

As a result, bids for the first phase of the project (from Merrimount Drive to S.E. 53rd Street) have just been sent out. The bids are due to be opened at City Hall this week, and the City Council is expected to award the contract to the lowest bidder on May 21, 2012. Construction will then take place this summer.

The City Council and the MI staff considers this a “done deal.”

However, recently major concerns about emergency vehicle access, lack of a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) filing and the overall impact of this major change from four to two traffic lanes are emerging, and these concerns need to be addressed and subject to public scrutiny before the Council authorizes the construction in three weeks time.

In the case of the almost 20 percent of Mercer Island’s population that I belong to — senior citizens over 65 years of age — the road diet creates difficulties and distractions that we are ill-equipped to deal with. Seniors are not able to switch to bicycles, or for that matter, walk to and from bus stops — so the idea of switching to public transportation just does not make sense for seniors.

Seniors living in their own homes along Island Crest Way depend on their cars to go shopping at the North or South end of the Island, visit their doctors and dentists both on and off the Island, and any other errands.

The road diet is going to make it much harder for senior drivers to enter Island Crest Way during the morning and evening rush hours; and the addition of bicycle traffic is going to confuse and distract older drivers. Has the City Council even given thought to this at all?

The City Council needs to take a deep breath and step back from its rush to implement the road diet.

Quoting from the Council’s ‘Vision Statement’:

Local land-use policies will be coordinated with transportation plans in order to provide safe, functional surfaces for vehicles, bikes and pedestrians while avoiding local “gridlock.” Local transportation planning will continue to emphasize a semi-rural setting for various arterial and collector streets.

The Island Crest Way Corridor Project does not meet the above criteria.

The ill-considered road diet will create gridlock and make Island Crest Way less safe, especially for our senior drivers. It is a bad idea for our small suburban community, and these drastic changes will affect vehicular access to our main north-south arterial road for many years to come.

Claus V. Jensen


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