At their June 11 meeting, the Woodinville City Council discussed how to widen the Sammamish River bridge, despite setbacks from an unknown entity that Councilmember Paulette Bauman referred to as “an elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss.”
In 2008, the council approved a plan to widen the now two-lane bridge by adding another bridge to the south, for a total of four lanes. But before the city can build the bridge, it has to get right-of-way from the the current landowners. The Port of Seattle has not agreed to give Woodinville permission to use the land.
When council members asked why the Port of Seattle wouldn’t grant the necessary right-of-way, City Manager Richard Leahy said he couldn’t explain the Port’s motivation.
“You’re dodging the question, which is, who’s responsible for it?” Mayor Bernie Talmas responded. “It’s not the Port ... They’re a governmental agency. They would have no interest in causing us grief and a lot of money when we’re offering to actually improve their right-of-way. So the question is, who’s behind it?”
Since the Port staff has been unable or unwilling to grant the right-of-way, Councilmember Scott Hageman suggested talking to the Port of Seattle Commission directly.
“They don’t appreciate the contributions that Woodinville is trying to make to the regional traffic problems that we all share and a solution that we would all share in,” Hageman said.
To circumvent the land controlled by the Port of Seattle, Woodinville’s Public Works Department has proposed several other possible designs for the bridge. The most likely option would add a lane to both sides of the existing bridge. When complete, the bridge would have four 12-foot lanes, one 5-foot bike lane on each side, an 8-foot sidewalk on the north side, and a 5-foot sidewalk on the south side. But the new design would also cost $1.2 million more and would take longer to build.
“I want to know why we’re spending $1.2 million more of our taxpayers’ money for an elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss,” Bauman said. “... I’m not going to vote for this, or approve anything in the future on this project, unless I know what’s going on.”
To try to resolve the problem, the council decided to have three “ambassadors” talk to the Port of Seattle and to send a letter to state legislators asking for the additional money needed to build the bridge.
The Sammamish River bridge is the third of the top five priorities for transportation improvements that the city council approved in the 2014 - 2019 transportation improvement plan. The plan includes 34 projects, which will cost a total of more than $224 million, said Tom Hansen, director of the Public Works Department.
The first priority is the annual street overlay program, which will cost between $500,000 and $1.4 million each year.
“We’ve been very aggressive over the last five years ... and our neighborhoods have been greatly improved,” Hansen said.
Widening a section of Woodinville-Duvall Road, from near 156th Street to the east city limits, is the second priority.
The road will be widened to include three lanes and will be more accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians.
The project will cost about $10 million.
Replacing the SR 202 trestle is the fourth priority. The project, which will cost about $8 million, will involve replacing and lengthening the railroad bridge and widening the road to eight lanes.
The fifth priority is creating an urban parkway on NE 171st Street, since the Woodin Creek Village Development Agreement requires improvements along this corridor, which will cost about $5 million.
The Public Works Department will reconstruct NE 171st Street from Woodin Creek Park to 140th Avenue NE with roundabouts at the 133rd Avenue NE, 135th Avenue NE and 138th Avenue NE / Garden Way intersections.
The council also discussed goals and priorities for the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which must be updated by 2015.
Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders wants to make sure the city’s industrial districts aren’t replaced with big chain retail stores.
“Industrial lands are the source of a lot of our living wage jobs in Woodinville. They’re the source of economic stability for Woodinville citizens, especially those that have a little less education,” she said.
“Replacing areas zoned for industry would be “great if you want to replace a lot of well-paying jobs with a few very poorly-paying jobs, that are paying such low wages that the employees are on food stamps. But it is not a ticket to prosperity for your city.”
Talmas had similar concerns about the Park and Ride’s importance to the community.
“Our Park and Ride serves the adjacent high-density housing and affordable housing in Woodinville, and I want to make sure that our evaluation considers that, because there’s been some talk about moving the Park and Ride,” he said. King County considers it under-utilized since the parking lot is never full, but in fact, it’s serving people who don’t have cars.