A top King County Parks official, Kevin Brown, and Laura Philpot, deputy city manager for Sammamish, will present updates to the City Council tomorrow (March 3) on the controversies surrounding the East Lake Sammamish Trail.
Focus will be on Section 2A, that portion from the Issaquah City Limits north to 33rd St. (the 7-11), which is next on the County’s plan to remake the trail to its final design.
Missteps, lack of communication, and a variety of issues on the Northern section (Inglewood Hill Road to the Redmond City Limits) caused an uproar among some property owners, conflicts with the County and a huge embarrassment for the City government.
Following this, the City stepped up to pay close attention to the design for Section 2A, including submitting comments to the County by the Oct. 29 deadline. When the 90% design came out at the end of December, it appeared that neither citizen nor City comments were considered.
The City blew a gasket that its comments were apparently ignored. Philpot told the County that the City wouldn’t accept transfer of the development permit from the County or it may reject it outright. Any appeal by the County would take enough time that its federal funding would be withdrawn.
(The complex Inter Local Agreement between the City and County whereby the County does the permit processing is described in my January 17 post.)
The presentations tomorrow are to explain to the Council what happened at the County that the City’s comments weren’t considered in the 90% design; how the City is now exercising close oversight, unlike the Northern end; what changes to the design are being done in response to citizen comments; and what changes requested probably won’t be accepted.
Chief among the latter are requests, including in comments I submitted to the County by Oct. 29, to narrow the trail in certain physically constrained or environmentally sensitive areas. Trail narrowing is also being requested by others, particularly in Section 2B (33rd to Inglewood Hill Road). Design on Section 2B commences this summer.
The Sammamish Home Owners association (SHO) prepared a presentation that is focused on Section 2B but which aptly illustrations the issues over the width of the trail. This PDF presentation is here: East Lake Sammamish Trail Presentation 12-4
The trail design calls for a 12 ft paved trail plus three feet of shoulders on each side, for a total of 18 ft. A single, standard-design traffic lane on East Lake Sammamish Parkway (ELSP) is 12 ft, so we’re talking about one-and-a-half lanes equivalency.
To build the ELST to this standard has required 21 ft, leading to removal of hundreds of trees in the Northern section–prompting cries of protest.
County officials claim they “can’t” reduce the width in order to maintain federal standards required from the use of federal funds. However, this isn’t necessarily true.
Last October I walked the ELST from Gilman Blvd. to the Lake Sammamish State Park, all within Issaquah. At 62nd St., which is the street that crosses ELSP going into the Fred Meyer/Home Depot complex, one of the forks of Issaquah Creek
runs adjacent 62nd. The ELST crosses at this point. The County eliminated the shoulders–all six feet of them–to just the paved area.
As the SHO presentation also indicates, there are other locations throughout the rails-to-trails system in the County where width adjustments have been made. What isn’t reflected in SHO (which probably doesn’t know) is whether federal funding was used in these other trails. If so, the federal design standards apply–and then the question arises, If the County could adjust the trails in those examples despite the use of federal money, why not here?
As tomorrow’s meeting approached, I planned to make some public comments. In preparation, last week I met with Philpot, Brown and two City Council members, Bob Keller and Tom Odell. These were all off-the-record meetings at my request so candid and frank discussions could take place, so I can’t report the contents of those meetings today–much of what we discussed will be presented by Philpot and Brown tomorrow and I imagine Keller and Odell will weigh in as well–as will I.
Without breaching the ground rules for last week, I will say that there was definite progress in how this project is being approached, particularly by the City. There are still concerns over the trail width that I have, which I will discuss tomorrow night. There will still be serious concerns for Section 2B, the most difficult portion of the entire project.
The public’s faith and trust (never particularly high these days) in government took serious hits over the Northern section; that represented a total failure on the part of Sammamish government for its citizens. The direction and outcome for Section 2A will be important to regain some of this trust.
The City Council meeting starts at 6:30pm; the County and City are at the top of the agenda, followed by Public Comment. The meetings are broadcast on Comcast Channel 21/61. They are also webcast live here and eventually rebroadcast here.