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Contentious Interstate 90 pedestrian bridge to open Friday

By Warren Kagarise
Issaquah Press
Bridge helps link a multitude of trails

The pedestrian bridge at Interstate 90 and state Route 900 is due to open Friday, months after the expected completed date.

Delays related to the bridge pilings and inclement weather slowed construction on the $6.2 million project. The connector separates bicyclists and pedestrians from the busy roadway. The structure includes a 12-foot-wide pedestrian bridge across the westbound interstate on-ramp and a 10-foot-wide pedestrian crossing on the state Route 900 overpass.

The city contributed $354,000 to the connector. Federal and Sound Transit dollars covered the remainder.

The bridge is due to open by late Friday, after more than a decade of planning and sometimes-contentious discussions among city officials, transit advocates and trails enthusiasts.

The remaining work on the project includes crews striping state Route 900 to bring the high-occupancy lanes closed during construction back into service.

Planners identified a need for a connector in 2000, after the state Department of Transportation built HOV lanes along state Route 900. The expansion used space dedicated for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The city soon received letters from numerous local and state agencies, as well as the Issaquah Alps Trails Club, offering strong support for a pedestrian connector.

Despite the broad support, the proposal prompted safety questions from city leaders.

“My concern with it is that it’s in the wrong place,” then-Councilman David Kappler said in November 2009.

The federal government contributed about 88 percent of the funding for the project. Before the federal government authorized funding, officials ranked the project No. 1 in the state in its category.

The money from the federal government had strings attached. Funds could be used only for the connector, rather than other projects elsewhere in Issaquah.

Sound Transit also granted the city $400,000 to complete the bridge. City Council members raised questions about the project, but accepted the Sound Transit grant in December 2009.

The decision to accept the grant came after committee and council meetings open to the public.

In November 2009, council members sent the grant to the Council Transportation Committee for further discussion, per standard procedure. The committee — councilmen Fred Butler, Joshua Schaer and Kappler — returned the proposal to the council in a split decision. Members also did not issue a recommendation to the council about how to proceed.

The grant decision reached the council again Dec. 21, 2009. Former Councilwoman Nancy Davidson and Getting Around Issaquah Together member Karen Behm urged council members to accept the grant. Nobody from the public spoke against the project. The council then accepted the grant in a 6-1 decision; Kappler dissented.

Construction on the connector started last summer, but the project hit a bump after crews had to dig deeper to reach a sturdier soil layer to support a series of concrete-and-steel piers. Other delays caused the project budget to rise and pushed back the opening date.

Despite the setbacks, proponents pointed out the connections between the bridge and the regional trails network. The connector links the Cedar River, High Point, Lake Sammamish, Mountains to Sound Greenway and Pickering trails. The link is also meant to connect Lake Sammamish State Park and the north to the Issaquah Transit Center to the south.

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