A plan to widen Sahalee Way from NE 25th north to the Sammamish City limits drew criticism from the public and prompted a heated exchange between council members at the July 7 City Council meeting.
The City Staff presented the proposed Six Year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to the Council for approval (which it did), including plans to widen Issaquah-Fall City Road along the eastern border of the Klahanie Annexation Area, a promise made by the City Council in advance of the April 28 annexation vote.
This expensive project–some $23m–drew little comment from the Council, outside of how it will be funded. But the proposed widening of Sahalee Way to three lanes, sidewalks and bike lanes, caused Council Members Ramiro Valderrama and Tom Odell, normally reasonably closely aligned on budget issues, to figuratively come to blows.
Members of the public also criticized the plan.
The TIP shows the estimated cost of the Sahalee Way plan at $15.7m, nearly $1m less than estimates a few months ago, but Valderrama believes the cost will be nearly double.
Sahalee area residents have raised questions over the plan, worried about encroachment on their properties and whether the project is even needed.
Valderrama, Christine Malchow and Tom Hornish, all candidates for City Council in the Nov. 3 election, raised questions over the cost and need; and noted that the section within the City proposed for widening is bracketed by road sections that are two, or in some spots three, lanes. To effectively widening the proposed section would require the rest of these roadways to also be widened to an equal design, they said. No cost estimates have been provided, and the far north end, outside City Limits, is a King County road. It is this fact that lit the fuse for a confrontation between Valderrama and Odell.
Valderrama, long a critic about spending proposals, not only questioned the City’s cost estimate, but challenged the suggestion that King County will widen its portion of the road to SR202.
The County, he said, has long claimed it doesn’t have “a cent” to do road projects, including widening Sahalee Way from the City Limits to SR 202. During his long dissertation, a visibly frustrated Odell, who sat next to Valderrama during the July 7 meeting, waited his turn.
Odell said he had met with King County Council Member Kathy Lambert “for two hours” to discuss Sahalee Way. Odell said that grants could be obtained to improve the County’s portion of the road.
Grants typically require local participation, and Valderrama challenged Odell whether Lambert indicated the County would contribute funds to the road. Odell didn’t answer the question. The full City Council meeting may be seen on YouTube here. The TIP presentation begins at 50 minutes into the meeting. Valderrama’s comments begin at 1:14 into the meeting. Odell responds at 1:22, and Valderrama reacts right after Odell’s comments.