ICW changes to benefit minority
December 1, 2009 · 2:24 PM
The Merrimount-Island Crest Way brouhaha seems to be floating up again. Earlier this year, many people had strong feelings about it and the issue was hot early in the spring. Then the City Council postponed the subject to discussion this fall. I’m sure they thought everyone would forget about it. But how can you, if you drive ICW every day?
The City Council is supposed to be looking out for the health, safety and welfare of all Island citizens. To me, that means doing what serves the greatest number of residents. So why do they want to bestow privileges on the small minority of the ICW traffic using Merrimount rather than the 19,000 daily users of ICW? Why does the large majority have to put up with the dangerous flow restriction to benefit the few who want to use Merrimount as a shortcut, when alternatives already exist?
The road diet plan, reducing ICW from four lanes, results in a single through-lane being foisted on ICW users, and will only result in increasing numbers of road rage incidents. Already, cell phone talkers and other inattentive drivers cause problems daily on ICW, and the single-lane configuration at 44th Street has exponentially increased the danger of accidents at this already most dangerous intersection on the Island. I have witnessed one severe accident and many near misses involving people entering ICW from 44th.
A proposal to have a third left-turn lane has people believing that buses and garbage trucks, etc., will not be an impediment. However, it is illegal to use a left-turn lane as a passing lane; plus, islands will be placed in the left-turn lane at the bus stops and places where the service vehicles stop (which is a problem south of Island Crest Elementary now). The result will be no way to get around buses and garbage trucks when they stop, particularly during heavy traffic.
One argument being put forth to support the present configuration and against a left-turn barrier on ICW is that 3,000 vehicles use Merrimount, and that’s too many to add to West Mercer or other routes. This argument doesn’t hold water because less than half that number would be diverted. All of the southbound traffic on ICW wanting to use Merrimount could still turn right onto Merrimount. Also, the sizeable number of vehicles using Merrimount for access to southbound ICW could still turn right and go south on ICW. And any proposal to put in a traffic light should be rejected as not cost-effective due to the high price, budget problems and the less expensive alternatives.
If safety is truly the goal of modifying the ICW-Merrimount intersection, the most rational objective and cheapest solution is to eliminate the left-turn access to ICW from Merrimount. The northbound people for whom ICW is a shortcut can proceed north on West Mercer Way to 78th Avenue S.E. and then access ICW at the 40th Street stoplight. It is faster time-wise, when you consider the time waiting for a traffic opening on ICW. The cost of this solution is only the cost of 100 feet of barrier placed on the ICW centerline at Merrimount (just as the city has done on 40th at 90th Avenue S.E.). This would allow restoration of four-lane traffic on ICW, eliminate the existing danger of the 44th Street traffic turning onto the single lane of ICW, and provide a much safer access for both Merrimount and 44th.
I encourage citizens to write to the mayor and City Council via letter and/or e-mail (email@example.com), and to attend the City Council meeting on Dec. 7, to express and demonstrate their interest and concerns. Be heard now, with your voice and/or your presence. After a plan is adopted, it will be too late!