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Feb. 25 ICW letter inaccurate
We wish to correct the inaccuracies in Mr. Marc Berejka’s letter published in the MI Reporter on Feb 25th. There was never any cost even approaching $6 million dollars mentioned for installing a traffic light while preserving four lanes. No homes need to be bought or “taken” for that option. The cost stated to the citizen panel was $1.5 million. This included the safest option for Merrimount with a traffic signal, 2 pedestrian crossing signals, and 44th street opened to incoming and outgoing traffic. The traffic light option does include the installment of 2 pedestrian crossing signals to increase safety for pedestrians crossing Island Crest Way while maintaining the current pedestrian islands. As opposed to the “road diet”option, the traffic signal on Merrimount would provide greater pedestrian safety than the narrowing of ICW. The models built by the professional traffic managers are, as the traffic experts themselves acknowledged-estimates. They do show increased travel times with narrowing as opposed to our current four lane configuration. More importantly, the models do not show that if we find ourselves behind a garbage truck, school bus, utility vehicle, slowing down behind cars making right turns, or behind vehicles merging from right or left we will not have the option of switching lanes. Furthermore, if an accident closes both northbound or southbound lanes, as has occurred in recent months, there will be fewer options for diverting traffic prior to complete clearing of the accident. As far as expert evaluation of “road diets,” a 2006 Minnesota Department of Transportation study of “road diets” concluded that traffic volumes in excess of 17,500 cars per day result in increased congestion on slimmed-down road and were not recommended for roads carrying greater than 17,500 vehicles per day. Our main thoroughfare, ICW carries 19,000 cars a day and that is without taking into account the high-density residential building taking place on Mercer Island now as we plan to narrow ICW. Finally, on cost. The road diet is less expensive. For a $500,000 price tag we do not improve the safety of the Merrimount intersection and we keep 44th Street closed, thus blocking off direct access to the neighborhood east of the intersection. If in the future we do decide to get serious about actually making the Merrimount intersection safer, which is after all the current project’s purpose, the $500,000 price will just be the a down payment as additional costs start accumulating anew. There are several traffic signals being placed in downtown Mercer Island and one on 40th and 86th. These intersections are not nearly as dangerous as Merrimount and if a lack of funds is an issue then the City Council’s task is one of better prioritizing. Throwing $500,000 at a project which will not solve safety problems and keeps the neighborhood east of Merrimount blocked just does not cut it, especially when tax revenues are dropping.