November 12, 2013
The trail is not a commuter road
There is trickery afoot on the East Lake Sammamish Parkway. The Sammamish Planning Commission recommends the city declare that the nearby East Lake Sammamish Trail can carry nearly 7,000 commuters per day, so no improvements are needed on the parkway.
The City Council should resist this plan and use a more honest alternative.
The parkway has been a contentious piece of road for years. Every morning and afternoon, it clogs with Sammamish residents headed to and from their jobs in Redmond.
It’s so clogged that it fails to meet city standards for roads of its kind. But most fixes that could deliver real traffic relief are cost-prohibitive.
So instead, the Planning Commission thinks the city should take credit for thousands of people who could potentially use the adjacent East Lake Sammamish Trail as a commuter route.
Certainly it’s a viable route, and more and more people are giving up their cars for bikes and other non-motorized forms of transportation. But the numbers the Planning Commission suggests are absurd. To meet those numbers, about 10 percent of the city’s population (including the children) would need to start biking the trail to work.
Designating the trail as a commuter route – even after considering the county’s planned upgrades to it – doesn’t mean people will suddenly start using it.
All it really means is the city is willing to live with the high traffic volumes on the parkway, and they’ve found a way to cook the books so that on paper, there’s no problem.
A more honest solution would be to change the traffic standards for the parkway, effectively saying that Sammamish finds the current traffic volume acceptable. That’s essentially what the plan does if it starts counting the trail as a major commuter artery.
There are certainly people who use the trail for commuting. Getting a handle on that number could be a useful exercise for future transportation planning decisions, but it needs to be based in reality.
The Planning Commission’s proposal serves only to hide a problem, not solve it. The City Council needs to find a real solution.