The Southeast Bypass project may be on death row now, but its fate shouldn't rest in the hands of the Issaquah City Council, says Councilman...

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The Southeast Bypass project may be on death row now, but its fate shouldn’t rest in the hands of the Issaquah City Council, says Councilman Bill Conley.

Instead, voters should decide whether to spare the 1.2-mile road project, he said.

Conley announced this week that he intends to introduce a motion at Monday’s meeting to put the contentious project on the November ballot. A majority vote by the council is necessary for that to happen.

“I’m proposing that we take it out of the council’s hands,” Conley said. “The council has gone away from what the public wants.”

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The Southeast Bypass issue has been a longtime source of frustration in the community and on the council. Under discussion for more than a decade, it has cost the city $4 million to study which route would work best to ease congestion on Issaquah’s downtown streets.

In October, the council decided to focus on a route that would extend from East Sunset Way along Sixth Avenue Southeast to a reconfigured intersection with Front Street South and Issaquah-Hobart Road. The route would displace 10 homes and cost $33.8 million.

Last month, the council voted 4-3 to cut off funding for the project’s environmental-impact review and directed Mayor Ava Frisinger to draw up a resolution declaring the project too expensive to complete.

But last week the council decided to refer the resolution to the utilities committee for further study.

Conley’s idea to take the project before the voters was met with a lack of enthusiasm yesterday from some council members.

“You could put it on the ballot, but I don’t see what the point is,” said Councilman Hank Thomas, a strong opponent of the bypass. “I would be real surprised if that sort of thing would get much traction [from the council].”

If it gets on the ballot, the vote would be considered advisory, said Frisinger.

“It would be a more substantive sampling of public opinion,” she said.

The ballot measure wouldn’t cost extra during a council-election year, according to the city clerk’s office.

Councilman Fred Butler, who supports the bypass, said the future of the city will suffer without a plan to alleviate Issaquah’s traffic problems.

“Typically, you shouldn’t take every controversial issue to the voters, but this is one of those rare cases where it’s appropriate,” Butler said. “Because of the nature of this and the fact there’s not an overwhelming [council] majority, it would be in the best interest of the city.

“If they say no, then we kill the project.”

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or