Steve Litzow is running for State Senate District 41– Bellevue and Mercer Island. He’s served on the Mercer Island City Council. He’s also the subject of an election rarity, the Mercer-Island-only attack ad.
I want to come out on Steve’s side but I have to say I agree with the fliers that keep showing up in my mail. Steve was instrumental in shelving the heavily-studied, citizen-approved and already-funded road diet plan.I hate to be a single-issue voter but, as it turns out, I am on this one.
Fiscal responsibility is important. But public safety is more important. We can afford to reconfigure Island Crest Way and we should do it.
If you want background on other issues, check out Publicola’s endorsement of Randy Gordon. I agree with them on several of the issues. But mostly I disagree with Steve on Island Crest Way.
This morning I was out walking and saw a neighbor who had just had a near miss on Island Crest Way. I often see this woman out walking her dog. She lets my baby squeal at and pet her dog.
This morning she was visibly shaken after her near miss. She started crying.
I know how she feels. It’s frightening to cross that road. She said she had used the red flag for pedestrians, but as always happens, when the car in one lane stops a car in the second lane speeds around it without seeing the pedestrian.
We are lucky to live in a small community with through traffic only on I-90. Why should we accept to have such a dangerous street right in the middle of residential neighborhoods? The multiple accidents have been counted. The many, many more near misses have not.
Commenter Steve tips us to a road diet in Des Moines that reduced accidents by an estimated 50%. Our road diet plan is in limbo. Crosswalks don’t do enough. We need the road diet plan funded.
Councilmember Bruce Basset sends this update on the derailed ICW project:
[regarding update from City Manager below]:I support the plan to apply for grant funding, but I’m frustrated by the Council action that brought us to this point. If we’d kept to the old plan, we’d be holding a ribbon cutting ceremony right about now. Instead we’ll live with the Merrimount/Island Crest 2007 ‘temporary experiment’ for at least another year. We’ll continue to put pedestrians at unnecessary risk. And we’ll rack up collisions along the corridor that wouldn’t occur in a three lane configuration.
Once we learn the results of the grant application process, I’ll urge the Council to complete the Island Crest Way reconfiguration in 2011.
Bruce is right: it’s an unnecessary delay to a long-overdue project. But let’s do it right, at least.
Rich Conrad’s email:
From: Rich Conrad
Date: Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 10:29 AM
Subject: Island Crest Way Project
To: Council Members
In considering how and when to proceed with the Council’s decisions on Island Crest Way a new piece of information has recently come our way. A staff representative of the State’s Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) contacted City staff to remind us that we could apply for state grant funds for the Island Crest Way crosswalks project. Apparently, they monitor media stories about street projects and they heard about the recent pedestrian accidents along Island Crest. Our staff asked if we could also apply for funds for the larger Island Crest Way project (3-lane configuration) that was postponed because the funding was reallocated to Residential Overlays. They responded that we certainly could apply but the projects would likely “score” differently.
I have passed this information on to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor seeking direction on how to proceed. They have both urged staff to prepare applications for both projects (as well as the previously planned application for the Town Center traffic signals along SE 27th). We understand that we will be told whether we are funded sometime in November. Of course, given this timing, no project along Island Crest Way will be implemented until 2011. Depending on the amount of grant funds we are awarded and which projects the State supports, staff will return with revised budgets, project scopes and implementation schedules. Both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have assured me that they believe there is broad support for taking the time to pursue these grant funds.
…meanwhile, the City Council is going forward with its plan to scrap the road diet. Even though road diets tend to reduce crashes and injuries and make thoroughfares safer for pedestrians.
Mercer Island Reporter covered a meeting on Monday where citizens gave pointed feedback about the apparently sudden decision to overturn years of study and citizen input.
The most recent accident shows exactly what’s dangerous about the current configuration: the crossing teen was hit by the driver in the second lane, who didn’t see him because of the stopped car in the first lane.
Adding two traffic lights at 47th and 42nd will not solve this problem.
Would anyone who has ever been or known a teen seriously expect a teen to walk an extra two blocks to cross at a crosswalk? Teens don’t do that. In fact, I don’t do that. Island Crest Way goes through residential neighborhoods its entire length. Why can’t we have a road that is simply safe to cross at any intersection?
No, really, Did the City Council just kill the Island Crest Way road diet project? You’ve got to be kidding me. The Reporter covered the meeting; I’ll let you read the sad details.
“Safety is not the priority for Island Crest Way [changes]. The issue for safety is crossing.” said Steve Litzow, Councilman.
Steve, I live a few blocks off ICW, and I agree with your fellow Councilman Bruce Bassett: the issue IS safety. There was another accident at Merrimount just a couple of Saturdays ago. And have you ever tried crossing the street? I hope you can sprint.
Putting a couple of lights on the street is a band-aid. It doesn’t fix the problem.
“The irony of this is that this project probably had one of the largest public processes that I’ve seen in 30 years.” Elliot Newman, former Mercer Island mayor. And widespread public support.
Not only that, but our election in November was basically a referendum on the issue, with only one of three City Council seats contested in a race where Ira Appleman made abandoning the road diet his single-issue platform. Ira lost. Islanders support and want to road diet. To have funded stripped in a single City Council meeting with no public discussion and no cost/benefit analysis of the options is a disgrace.
All quotes in this article are from the Mercer Island Reporter coverage.
The P-I reports that a teen was hit crossing Island Crest Way around 42nd street. He’s ok but this illustrates how dangerous ICW is in mid-Island. There was another wreck at Merrimount and Island Crest on Saturday as well, with one car totaled.
The road diet can’t come soon enough.
At mid-Island, even if you cross at a crosswalk you’re in danger. Here’s the issue: with two lanes, the driver in one lane sees a pedestrian and slows. The driver behind, not able to see the pedestrian, sees the slowing and merges into the other lane. Because of the stopped car, neither the pedestrian nor the other car can see each other. When drivers aren’t alert, they blow through the crosswalk… just as the pedestrian is getting to the second lane.
I’ve seen dozens of close calls like this. If you’re crossing, the only safe way to do it is to wait for both lanes to stop. Making eye contact with both drivers is a good idea too. And let’s get ICW down to one lane in mid-Island ASAP.
Photo credit: hunteredwards on Flickr.
Have you noticed the car counters on Island Crest Way? An email to Mike Cero, City Councilmember, confirms: “The counters are indeed for the re-configuration. This will be the third count on ICW in the last couple years. Also note the counters are on 86th, 44th and other roads.”
Not, in fact, ICW. It’s less dangerous to stand on 44th and take a photo.
So now that the fall elections and winter weather (such as it was) are over, work can proceed on Island Crest Way’s road diet. The City says: “Finally, the City Council authorized the Island Crest Way project to go to bid. It is expected that the bid will be awarded near the end of June 2010 and construction will take place this summer.”
Again, from Mike: “The council is scheduled on June 21st to approve those bids. So yes we are on track, but true fidelity of the schedule will happen on June 21st.” We’ll keep you posted.