After years of debate, public workshops and hundreds of suggestions, Bellevue's City Council approved a project to improve safety along...

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After years of debate, public workshops and hundreds of suggestions, Bellevue’s City Council approved a project to improve safety along the city’s crowded stretch of woodsy, two-lane West Lake Sammamish Parkway by creating more space for cyclists and pedestrians.

The $20.5 million project would create a 4-foot-wide east shoulder for walkers and bikers and a 10-foot-wide, multi-use trail to the west that would be buffered from the road in many spots by landscaped strips of varying widths.

The project also calls for a new stoplight at Southeast 34th Street and six crosswalks between Interstate 90 and Bellevue’s border with Redmond to the north.

Homeowner groups along the parkway backed the proposal, and the council unanimously passed it last night, despite opposition from bicycling enthusiasts. Bicyclists had lobbied for dedicated bike lanes to avoid having to vie for space with joggers, people walking dogs, and moms and dads pushing strollers.

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“I know some of you are probably disappointed, but you know what this proposal gives you is more than you have today,” said Mayor Connie Marshall.

The parkway, which runs alongside Lake Sammamish, now has one usable shoulder, one that’s largely nonexistent and no marked bike lanes or buffers from traffic.

Residents for years complained that the parkway’s traffic makes it tough to back out of their steep driveways safely. But they opposed the city’s attempt to widen the road and add a bike lane on each side in 1997, saying the reduced visibility could make them more likely to hit passing cyclists.

Cyclists urged Bellevue to follow Redmond’s example along its portion of the parkway and add dedicated bike lanes to transform the road into a safer north-south route connecting several Eastside communities.

In 2003, Bellevue officials opted to strive for compromise and began holding workshops to gather community views. To date, the city has received more than 450 individual comments on the parkway, said Nancy LaCombe, senior project manager in the Transportation Department. The city staff combined the most popular and feasible proposals.

Even with council approval, however, the work could be years away. Bellevue has yet to budget the money, so the project will compete with others for a spot in the city’s capital-improvement program. The mayor instructed the city staff to begin a search for funding.

Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or kgaudette@seattletimes.com