Issaquah city officials have spent more than a dozen years and $4 million to determine which of six proposed routes would be the best way...

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Issaquah city officials have spent more than a dozen years and $4 million to determine which of six proposed routes would be the best way to send traffic around, rather than through, the city’s downtown.

Their answer now may be none of them.

The City Council will vote Monday on whether to abandon plans for the Southeast Bypass, a roughly one-mile route between the I-90 Sunset Interchange and Issaquah Hobart Road intended to relieve congestion in downtown’s Front Street corridor.

In 1995, the city adopted a comprehensive plan that supported the bypass. Leaders and citizens have debated it ever since.

Critics of the controversial arterial got a boost in November, when a new, “no-build” majority was elected to the council. Voters chose Joshua Schaer, who opposes the bypass, over Vince Ippolito, a skeptic of the project. Council President David Kappler, who has long lobbied against the bypass, vacated his seat to run for Position 7, defeating Bill Werner, who had taken a wait-and-see approach to the bypass.

That left John Traeger, who also opposes the bypass, to run unopposed.

Many residents saw the project as an overpriced blight that would harm Issaquah’s environment and downtown businesses while failing to solve the city’s traffic problems. Others, including the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce, argued it was crucial to letting commuters move freely through the region.

City staff members have identified less than half of the estimated $47 million needed to build the project.

Everyone grew frustrated by the length of the process. In January, 12 years after it was started, the final environmental-impact statement for the bypass was released — just as the new opposition majority took office.

Last month the council voted 4-2 to discuss the issue at a study session, with final action to come at the March 3 regular meeting. Council members Eileen Barber and Fred Butler dissented; John Rittenhouse was absent. Kappler made the motion, saying the bypass would cost too much and do too little.

Backups would be spread out but not eliminated, he said.

Kappler acknowledged that the city has figured a bypass into its plans and models for future traffic flow, and that removing it would cause problems at some intersections. But what’s surprising, he said, is how little would go wrong in the absence of a bypass.

“That gets back to the cost-benefit of the road,” he said.

Not everyone wants to pass on the project. The Issaquah School District has lobbied for years against a no-build decision.

Second Avenue Southeast, home to Clark Elementary School and Issaquah High School, is a popular cut-through for commuters, School Board member Mike Winkler said. Traffic there is “brutal,” he said, and will only get worse as the city and region grow.

Councilman Butler is pushing for a public vote. But even if the council doesn’t put the issue to voters, Butler predicts in another five or 10 years the council will be considering it again.

Amy Roe: 206-464-3347 or aroe@seattletimes.com