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.
Here on Mercer Island, the November election has two City Council Seats and two School Board seats in play. The City Council race is effectively a vote about Island Crest Way. Let’s take a look at that one.
Ira’s extremely targeted campaign platform and the object of said platform.
Why does Election 2009 = Island Crest Way Vote? 2 Reasons.
- Of the three seats at stake, only one (Council Position #2) is contested.
- Of the two candidates for Council Position #2, one (Ira Appleman) has staked his campaign on fighting the decision to take ICW to 3 lanes.
Ira’s positioning is strong because it’s simple and memorable, but it’s a bit of a shame as well because Ira has done a lot in service to the Island that gets lost in his focus on this issue. A lot of his record I support, including preserving open space and cutting wasteful spending.
Road Diet: Pro & Con
But as I’ve written before, I can’t support Ira on this. I support taking ICW to 3 lanes. It’s too hard to turn now, too busy, and too hard to cross. Some citizens have put together a website outlining the reasons for 3 lanes instead of 4. They’ve included a handy map showing neighboring communities that have successfully implemented road diets.
Ira’s main arguments, as I read his letter, seem to me beside the point:
- Overwhelming opposition from Islanders to a 3-lane solution: I haven’t seen this in my friends but also don’t know if a survey has been done.
- A bad process with the result baked in from the beginning: Can’t comment on whether this is true, but having known nothing of the process or the people involved it still seems like a better solution to me.
- Plan favors bikes over cars: Doesn’t seem so. In fact, the case for 3 lanes doesn’t even mention bikes as one of the main rationales:
I both bike and drive to work, but mostly drive. And it’s hard to turn on ICW. I also walk and run around the neighborhood and it’s hard to cross ICW. Look, it’s Seattle– almost no one bikes in the winter rain and cold. So it’s hard to believe that bunch of rabid bike-freaks have taken over the process.
Funny thing is, I would vote for Ira Appleman based on his record. But I can’t vote for the guy who wants to keep Island Crest Way at 4 lanes.
Trains (aka Light Rail)
The Bellevue Reporter has a good article on the options for the light rail routes on the East Side. Mostly the article concerns where the train will go in Bellevue and Redmond, since the decision on Mercer Island is trivial. If you plan to be traveling to Bellevue in 2023 when the East Link is complete, read this.
Sound Transit’s simulation of Light Rail over I-90.
In more near-term news, Mercer Island’s own Fred Jarrett argues in Crosscut for a more metric-driven approach to planning transit: basically, cut service where it’s not working and don’t cut where it is. (The fiscal reality is that Metro has to cut somewhere.) The current system promises quantity of service by region: 20% Seattle, 40% East Side, and 40% South King County.
In Fred’s own words, why to shift Metro away from regional allocation:
“Measuring effort by neighborhood benefits no one moving between neighborhoods. Further, it has created a system that measures effort rather than performance and results in unacceptability high costs by almost every measure. The Municipal League has documented the agency’s high cost per mile. While that figure is troubling, the high cost per rider is cause for even greater alarm as it clearly indicates that the system’s routes aren’t as productive as they should be.”
Nicely said, Fred.
So different, yet so much the same.
A bubbling issue relevant only on our own Island is whether Island Crest Way should go to 3 lanes south of 40th or stay at 4 lanes. We’ve been debating this so long it’s becoming our very own Alaskan Way Viaduct. For those who don’t follow city politics or drive, the Alaskan Way situation has been debated since it was damaged in the 2001Nisqually Earthqauke until finally a resolution was reached in 2009– a resolution since reopened in the Seattle mayoral race.
What’s driving the Island Crest Way issue is the intersection at Merrimount, which had been the Island’s most dangerous intersection and now has temporary traffic control. This issue deserves its space– watch for a post soon.
The Seattle Times reports that the state budget restored money for carpool lanes over I-90. This should quiet a lot of the opposition to light rail over I-90. It may also keep traffic moving, since the lanes must be in place before tracks can go over the Express Lanes. If you haven’t been following, there’s been a debate over how to compensate for the loss of the Express Lanes to Light Rail.
In other transportation news, the City’s seeking comment on the 2010-2015 transportation plan– find details and send comments here. And for inspiration, here’s the current plan of street improvements (click for pdf):
There’s a lot of work in Mid-Island, especially around the troublesome intersection at Merrimount Way.
Now let’s look at the history of street resurfacing- fun!
If you got a kick out of this post, you should definitely comment on the plan.