After 10 years of review, $4 million in studies and plenty of heated debate, Issaquah's Southeast Bypass seemed like a project that would...
After 10 years of review, $4 million in studies and plenty of heated debate, Issaquah’s Southeast Bypass seemed like a project that would never die.
But funeral bells soon may toll for the controversial plan touted as a way to reduce congestion on city streets.
The Issaquah City Council voted 4-3 on a motion this week to cut off funding for the project’s environmental-impact review. The council also directed Mayor Ava Frisinger to draw up a resolution declaring the project as too expensive to complete — in effect, killing it.
A final vote on the resolution is to come before the council July 5.
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“I really think it’s time for this to stop,” Councilman Joe Forkner said. “If this is out of the way, then it opens up the door for looking at other alternatives, like widening Newport Way.”
The Southeast Bypass — a 1.2-mile stretch intended to serve as a passage for commuters from North Bend to Kent and beyond without going through Issaquah — set off debate for years because some argued it would be an environmental nightmare and do nothing to solve the city’s traffic woes.
The council’s latest move sparked anger among some who said the public wasn’t notified in a proper fashion. The item was not on the agenda, but longtime bypass opponent Hank Thomas sent an e-mail to other council members Sunday saying he planned to introduce a motion and bring it up for discussion.
Frisinger said that while the action falls “within the letter of the law, there was not the usual degree of [public] notification.”
It’s possible the council could reverse its decision July 5 if one of the four who voted in favor of it changed his or her mind. Forkner said he regrets circumventing the council’s protocol of public notice.
“If people want to try to change my mind and they can convince me, I’m willing to listen,” he said.
Suzanne Suther, executive director of the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce, was floored when she heard the council would act Monday. Suther said a project such as the bypass is vital to sustaining growth in the business community.
“The question is, what are the ramifications of this decision? The traffic will increase no matter what this city does,” she said. “For those who think ‘don’t build it and they won’t come,’ well, that is foolhardy because they will come anyway.
“If [the bypass] does come to a screeching halt and we’ve wasted $4 million with no other plan in mind … that would be a travesty.”
In October, the council chose to further study a new four-lane road. That route would follow a straighter north-south route from East Sunset Way and would run along Sixth Avenue Southeast to a reconfigured intersection with Front Street South where it meets Issaquah-Hobart Road. It also would displace 10 homes and would cost $33.8 million.
Thomas said there was no end in sight to the bypass issue, and it was better for the city to cut its losses and move on.
The fund for the environmental-impact study still has about $339,000, which wouldn’t be enough to finish the report, he said.
Voting for the motion were Thomas, Dave Kappler, Nancy Davidson and Forkner. Opposing it were Bill Conley, Fred Butler and Russell Joe.
Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or firstname.lastname@example.org