Traffic: Woes and Complexities

February 20, 2017 Mirrormont Newsletter 20170

When I moved to Mirrormont in 1988, it was a 10-minute drive to Issaquah. In the past three years, we’ve all noticed a dramatic increase in pass-through traffic along the Issaquah-Hobart Rd. Most cars come from the Growth Management Act’s designated urban growth areas: Enumclaw, Black Diamond, Covington, and Maple Valley. As a result, the traffic situation has been going from an annoyance to a nuisance to a problem to a crisis.

As part of our Speaker’s Program, the MCA hosted a Traffic Talk meeting to dialogue with representatives from Issaquah City Council and King County Council. We also gained insights from Mirrormont resident Chad Magendanz, our House Representative at the time.

I learned a lot at the Nov. 22nd Regional Transportation Summit, where 11 mayors from Renton to North Bend reported similar traffic woes.* While SR 900, SR 18, and SR 169 are supposed to carry growth-area traffic, they have choke points, so commuters have been using Issaquah-Hobart Rd, a King County road with a rural recreational corridor designation. Mayor Fred Butler named it the Poster Child for our regional traffic problem and called for collaboration among jurisdictions. Unlike the 12-year controversy over the Issaquah Bypass, there seems to be no opposition to widening SR 900, SR 18, and SR 169. The main issue is funding.

King County Road Services Division has had reduced funds due to annexations and declining gas tax revenues, with barely enough to address immediate safety issues and a modest amount of maintenance. Just to manage the existing infrastructure at its optimal life cycle would require almost four times the current revenue, which comes from the rural populous in unincorporated King County. At the current funding level, our road system will continue to deteriorate.

Widening Issaquah-Hobart Road might seem to be an obvious answer, but the corridor would need to be reclassified. To be effective, we would also need an Issaquah Bypass. Both projects would need Environmental Impact Statements, a political process, consensus—and massive funding. Even then, how would traffic be handled during construction?

The only solution approved for funding is widening SR 18 and improving the interchange at I-90—but design is not slated to start until 2023, with completion in 2028. Still, with enough political pressure, it could be accelerated. Federal funds could also be sought, since SR 18 carries national freight from the ports to I-90. This solution got the most number of votes at our Traffic Talk meeting. Let’s work together to speed up this process by contacting our legislators.