No Traffic Light at Merrimount and Island Crest Way

Come on, guys. Traffic lights are awful. We’re still a small community and we don’t need a light mid-Island.

red-light Red light on the traffic light.

A lot of pro-traffic light people turned out at the last meeting about the subject, but I think they were just better organized than the anti-light brigade. Most people I’ve talked with oppose a light at Merrimount.

The reasons not to have a light are:

  • It’s ugly
  • You end up sitting at the light forever and it slows traffic
  • It makes MI feel like an industrial suburb instead of a walkable, livable neighborhood

In contrast, having three lanes is more aesthetic, more efficient, and safer. And come on, the Island police pass out so many tickets that it’s impossible to speed on Island Crest anyway. It’s not like getting stuck behind someone who’s a little slow will set you back too far on your commute.

Three lanes is the current plan of record, and should be the plan that’s implemented. The citizen’s group (click for lots of data on the project) and the City Council have it right: no light.

Photo credit: yael_roshovsky on flickr.


10 responses to “No Traffic Light at Merrimount and Island Crest Way

  1. I think it’s more complicated than you make it out to be. Yes, fewer lanes – or divided roads with planting – or crosswalks – or (heaven forbid) speed bumps – all slow traffic down and presumably make it safer. Yet, when you consider all of the driveways and cross-streets that enter onto ICW…having a slower but steadier stream of traffic makes it significantly harder to enter the stream of traffic on the _opposite_ side of ICW. For example, look at the delay at the top of 53rd in the afternoon / evening for those going to the South End shopping center. You can wait there 10 minutes for a “break” in the traffic. People dart out desperately. And this is across from a school, in a location with regular child pedestrian traffic. And everyone waiting to turn North onto ICW has to wait for that one car going South. This is just one location that directly impacts me, but I have to believe that it’s repeated in many places along ICW. Having a traffic light at _any_ point would create those breaks in traffic that merging motorists need.

  2. The three lane solution proposed for Merrimount is basically what is currently at 53rd Place, which as Keith says is pretty painful at some times for southbound traffic. The user for Merrimount would have to deal with that for their northbound trips. I can see why they would be very opposed to it.

    Making ICW walkable is a nice thought, but the level of traffic noise even in the areas that are nice looking now makes walks there kind of unpleasant, so I don’t see the potential for much foot traffic between the school and Merrimount. So the rationale for a three lane ICW is just the aesthetics for drivers. For practical purposes, the money would be better spent on a light triggered by the presence of a car waiting to enter ICW from Merrimount, and one at 53rd Place would be nice also, since it would benefit the car and bus traffic for the school as well. The impact on traffic there would be no greater than the existing pedestrian crossing, if the two were combined.

  3. mercerislandblogger

    Keith and Jon, you make good points about needing to stop the traffic for turns. I wouldn’t be opposed to a light triggered by a waiting car, although I’d still prefer that at three lanes than four.

    Jon, to your point about walkers: many people do walk or run at ICW between Merrimount and 53rd. I live in that area and I do, and I often see others. Sometimes it’s runners, sometimes people going to one of the many churches right around there. So making that area more pleasant wouldn’t just be for drivers.

  4. It looks tight, but I think a traffic circle is the best alternative for this type of intersection. A quick measurement from the KingCounty iMAP site shows about 130′ (outer) diameter between private property lines. I’m not a traffic expert, but that might be enough for a 1 lane circle like the one at West Lake Sammamish Parkway SE, Lakemont Boulevard SE, which also appears to be about 130′ (via iMAP measurement).

  5. mercerislandblogger

    Keith: Yeah, I tend to agree. My husband and I were talking about it, and I think it would be toughest for the 44th St. people (coming from the East) since there’s a steep little hill there. A traffic circle would solve a lot of the problems and still be a little friendlier than a light.

  6. Just got the Mercer Island Quarterly, and there’s a Citizen Panel that’s come up with some recommendations ( It appears that they were more concerned about creating short sections of bike lanes (that don’t really connect anything to anything) rather than solving the traffic problem.

  7. Ah – just read their charter. They were limited to rubber-stamping a city council mandated solution. Nevermind.

  8. mercerislandblogger

    Interesting dynamic though.

  9. Pingback: Light Rail AND Carpool Lanes? « Surrounded By Water: A Mercer Island Blog

  10. Almost anything is preferable to what’s there now. Someday we may well see a grade separation- overpass and/or underpass. JG

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