Letters to the Editor

Signal at Island Crest Way and Merrimount

There’s been a lot of interest surrounding the work of the city and City Council with reference to a proposed signal at the intersection of Island Crest Way and Merrimount Drive. We became aware of this recently after we had attended a session sponsored by the city with reference to this issue. We now know that this proposal has met its demise, and we are not happy. Nor are probably hundreds or thousands of Islanders whose north to south to north “thruway” has been squeezed down to one miserable and dangerous lane through that intersection. Having lived on Mercer Island since 1969 and traversing daily or multiple times through this intersection, we are displeased with the rather casual dismissal of the idea of a signal at that intersection. While most of us cannot profess to be experts in traffic control (except, of course, by having years and years of driving experience), it seems most unreasonable that a traffic light would not have been one of the most important additions to Mercer Island’s traffic system.

A good 10 years ago, we complained to the city about the dangers of traversing this corridor and, most specifically, having to drive onto Island Crest from Merrimount or S.E. 44th. One takes one’s life into one’s own hands when doing this. Part of the reason is that traffic flows unabated from both the north and south. In particular at peak driving times, this becomes almost comical; it is also frustrating and frightening. The city employee asked if we had ever seen an accident there, to which we replied, “Yes, many times.” The next move was to put down devices to measure the traffic flow.

Gee. What do you think they found? You’ve got it: There’s a whopping amount of traffic going through that area.

And now, with the current and — we might add — ill-founded configuration, traffic is slowed immensely, many vehicles cross over the line and destroy the plastic “barriers” erected to keep traffic in the proper lane and turning left off of northbound Island Crest or a right turn onto Island Crest from Merrimount is truly a scary adventure. And that’s not to mention the brave souls who try to turn right onto northbound Island Crest from S.E. 44th. They take life into their own hands only because it’s impossible to see far enough to know that no traffic is approaching. Have you been on Island Crest, with only one lane approaching Merrimount, when there’s a refuse truck working its way up the street?

So why not two through lanes and a light? It would make the movement off of and onto Island Crest safe and efficient. The light, while an obstacle to traffic flow, would slow down traffic and allow folks to safely turn onto Island Crest from 86th S.E. (ask the Metro drivers) or from S.E. 47th (where high school traffic causes incredible delays at peak periods). We cannot believe that all the money wasted in simply considering traffic change as well as the really inadequate current configuration wouldn’t simply have been better spent putting in a signal. We know it would be more expensive. But in the long run, we all would have been a lot better served, especially considering the improved safety issues.

It is time for the current membership of the Council to behave responsibly and react to the needs of the majority rather than the questionable expertise of those who propose cost-efficient but mostly inefficient traffic management methods.

Let’s have a signal at Island Crest once and for all and move onto other issues of similar importance which also need clear, concise and progressive thinking toward the future rather than the staid and seemingly conservative methods and planning of the past.

Marilyn and Richard Brody

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