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UPDATED: City Council Approves Removing SE 32nd St. Barricade - Issue of Other Barriers Remains

Changes to Southeast 32nd Street would include traffic circles, extended curbs, new sidewalks and would cost about $250,000.

The Southeast 32nd Street barricade - a lingering piece of Sammamish's young history - will soon become history itself.

And after months of policy study and debate, another question looms for residents and the City Council: What about the other King County-era street barricades in Sammamish?

As part of a busy Tuesday night meeting, the Sammamish City Council voted to remove the red-and-white road barrier on Southeast 32nd Street, near 222nd Court Southeast. Council members also gave the green light to spending about $250,000 on traffic, sign and pedestrian improvements in the area.

The 6-to-0 decision came after residents who live near the barricade voiced concern over whether city-backed improvements included enough sidewalks, especially west of it. The City Council approved an amendment by a vote of 5 to 1 to construct a sidewalk for an estimated 200 to 300 feet west of the barrier.

Councilman Mark Cross said he appreciated all the public comments regarding the issue. "I do want to see the sidewalk extended on 32nd to the west," he said.

John Curley, another member of the City Council, agreed. "Let's connect the neighborhood and that's done through a sidewalk," Curley, who in January had not made a decision, said.

"The city wants to work with you," he added in a message to residents. "I think the system worked."

Before the vote, residents stood behind a podium to tell the elected officials, their thoughts about a structure that was erected when the area was more rural and part of King County.

Resident James Wasnick lives near the barricade and said that if the city makes the changes the Public Works Department is suggesting, he would be satisfied.

"I'm pleased they listened to my concerns," he said, referring to the City Council and staff. Those concerns included automobile speed in the area and traffic.

For Kurt Strand, who lives four houses west of the barrier, questions still lingered - even with the city proposing traffic signs, curb extensions and traffic circles.

"We don't have sidewalks," he said. "We have sight distance problems."

He also questioned the idea of connectivity in the city, referring to it as "baffling" and asked why the removal has to be done at this point.

Some residents at the meeting raised the issue of maintaining quality of life in the city and keeping neighborhood character.

Bob McCoy who lives in the area of the barrier reminded people of one fact: "This is a public street."

Others said they believed the barrier removal would make the neighborhood less safe, especially with the number of kids in the area and those who walk to and from each day.

During the City Council discussion, Councilwoman Nancy Whitten also raised the issue of pedestrian safety, noting that areas can quickly get dark in Sammamish in the winter.

"Lighting is important," she said, referring to street lights.

City Manager Ben Yazici told the Council that staff could look at the issue of lights.

This specific barricade has been controversial for some time. While some residents cited traffic safety should the barricade go down, others have talked about better connection of Sammamish streets, especially as the city grows.

With this vote, city staff can begin working on safety improvements along Southeast 32nd Street, including three traffic circles, Public Works Director Laura Philpot said.

She was referring to a planned five-foot sidewalk on Southeast 32nd Street's south side between 225th Avenue Southeast and 226th Avenue Southeast.

The resolution amendment permits the city to extend the sidewalk about 200 to 300 feet to the west of the barricade.

That addition on Southeast 32nd Street is likely to be on the north side and would extend to what is a 90-degree turn with 220th Avenue Southeast, Philpot said.

As of Tuesday night, a dollar estimate for this addition was not available, she added.

In January, the estimate for the changes was about $130,000. The city has released a map, showing that project changes will include a total of three traffic circles, two flashing school zone signs, a crosswalk on Southeast 32nd Street near Pine Lake Middle School, extended curbs, eight new stop signs and street stencils reminding motorists that the speed limit is 25 mph.

There also would be one sign to inform motorists that the speed limit is 20 mph when children are present. That sign would be closer to the intersection of Southeast 32nd Street and 228th Avenue Southeast.

This work would be done starting from the intersection of Southeast 32nd Street and 228th Avenue Southeast, then south down 220th Avenue Southeast and then northeast on Southeast 33rd Place, according to the map.

Crews are scheduled to start the work in the spring, the city reported on its website. All changes would have to be complete before the barricade is removed. The road barrier would remain until the end of this academic year.

The City Council is expected to consider other "non motorized" improvements in the area, officials said. This could include changes to help pedestrians and slow down cars in the area around the barricade. Members talked about these improvements to help the area

While the City Council has seven members, Councilwoman Michele Petitti was absent from the meeting. Mayor Don Gerend asked that her absence be excused. The lone member who voted against the sidewalk extension amendment was Deputy Mayor Tom Odell.

"We have a process where sidewalks should go," he said after the meeting to explain his opposition. "I don't want to set a precedence for the other barrier questions."

The city has about 50 barricades that were put in place when King County had oversight of the Plateau and roads were often dirt. Of that amount, about 40 are "stub streets" - or dead ends. 

Regarding what the City Council might do regarding these remaining barricades, Gerend said officials will follow the same process that was used in the Southeast 32nd Street removal.

That included traffic studies, community meetings and public feedback.

"It's possible we can do more than one at a time," he said when asked about possibly grouping barricades in a specific area under an umbrella to study.

But no decision has been made about any other road barricade in Sammamish. 

Based on a prediction of traffic in 2016, removing the Southeast 32nd Street barrier would cause the number of cars at the eastern end of the street, near Pine Lake Middle School, to rise from an expected 803 vehicles per day to 1,694, the city reported. But other nearby streets would have significantly less traffic in 2016 if the barricade is taken down.

Last month, Philpot presented the City Council with a memo in which she noted: "There is not a technical reason for the SE 32nd Street barricade to remain in place. There definitely will be a significant shift in traffic patterns. However, there is no indication this would become a cut through route for drivers."

Before the barrier debate was over, Wasnick stood before the Council and the 20 to 30 people at City Hall and apologized.

In January, he said, he opposed city efforts to remove the barricade and was less than civil to Gerend and Philpot. City officials, he added, still listened to him.

"I want to say thank you," he said.

Members of the City Council said they appreciated the civil nature of the Tuesday night discussion. During the 4.5-hour meeting, at which many topics were discussed, no one yelled.

The city has posted information about the barricade and road improvements on its website.

Editor's note: This story was revised on Wednesday around 1 pm to include comments from members of the Sammamish City Council and residents, as well as additional information.

Bob Post March 02, 2011 at 04:33 PM
My wife and I are disappointed that the city left several items unanswered before they voted to remove the barricade. From the start, it was apparent the city was planning to remove the barricaded and was just doing a dance with residents to appear accommodating. Items they ignored to answer: 1.) a request from residents for an independent review by the same consulting firm who had done an earleir study on what it would require to make the corridor safe if the barricade were removed 2.) a request by residents for the City Council to spend a weekday morning to personally witness the non motorized traffic using the corridor 3.) According to one resident, prior to the incorporation of Sammamish, King County had promised not to remove the barricade. City staff said they were unaware of that and would look into it. 4.) Why is the city ignoring requests from residents on the west side of the barrier for sidewalks like the east side has? For future, those of you who live next to a barricade and wish it to remain, good luck. The City is pushing connectivity and shows little interest in maintaining a neighborhood's character. They have put cars ahead of people in my view. So after 22 years in the same house, this has convinced me it is time to move....preferably out of Sammamish.
Cathy Bart March 02, 2011 at 04:38 PM
Well, of course they did. There was never any dicussion by the city or staff of retaining the barricade. I have been involved in this issue from the beginning, being an original homeowner on 32nd. In all those years, the city staff made no effort to hide that removal has been their intent all along. It is interesting that I was never able to get an anwer from anyone on the council as to how their "connectivity" agenda fits with the city vision statement..."protect the quality and integrity of existing neighborhoods", in fact one of the newer council members I questioned was not even aware what the vision statement said. This is one of the oldest "existing neighborhoods" in the area. The fact is that 32nd was a culdesac. Those of us that are original homeowners made the decision to purchase here after being told by the county the road was not to be a through street. This was mentioned by the Gray and Osborn study, and Councilmember Curley also said it needed to be investigaged at the Jan 11th meeting. I'd like to see the result of that investigation. Quality of life was the most important issue behind safety and was given one line in the city report. "Yes, traffic patterns will change, but predicted volumes are within typical range for residential street." The city in it's wisdom has decided that the reasons that residents decided to make probably the largest investment of our lives just isn't that important...and I am not surprised Cathy Bart

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