Sammamish City Council changes barricade rules

April 9, 2014

By Ari Cetron

New: April 9, 2:14 p.m.

Barricades have long been a touchy issue in Sammamish – the mere mention of removing one can bring hundreds of people to a City Council meeting.

On April 1, the City Council made a modification to its process for removing barricades, which will give the council far more latitude in how it handles future barricades.

There are dozens of barricades scattered across the city. In many cases, the barricades block what would otherwise be a through street, instead creating de facto cul-de-sacs. The city’s Comprehensive Plan calls for generally increasing connectivity throughout city streets. Removing barricades is one way to do so, since it opens up new routes for traffic to flow more evenly.

Residents who live near barricades sometimes oppose their removal, citing the sharp increase in traffic they will see and potential safety issues at some of the locations. Others favor their removal, pointing to the new traffic pattern that will shave time off trips by allowing more direct connections.

In 2009, the City Council developed a process for evaluating barricades to determine if one should be removed, and then how the city should go about removing it. It has only been used once, with the removal of the 32nd Street barricade. The city ended up spending $350,000 to address traffic concerns created by the removal of the barricade, and some residents say that still isn’t enough, since it ignored parts of the road.

At the City Council retreat in February, council members discussed how they might change the process, and what they hit upon was changing a requirement to an option.

The barricade removal process, which had said the city shall evaluate the barricades, now says it may do so at the discretion of the City Council. The change will generally allow the council to take on the issue of any given barricade when it decides the time is right, rather than creating an expectation that all barricades must be reviewed as soon as possible.

Councilman Robert Keller noted that this change not only gives flexibility, but also removes the impression that there is a sense of urgency to performing the studies.

Council members generally hailed the decision. Councilman Tom Odell and Councilwoman Nancy Whitten said that the change would allow the council to settle the statuses of some of the more obvious barricades – those that can be removed easily and those that should remain.

“We’ve been 10 years on this, and some of them need closure,” Whitten said.

Keller noted that although there may be enhanced flexibility, even the “easy” barricades will need to go through the same process, involving three opportunities for public input and staff time needed to study traffic and other impacts.

As a result, the study of any barricade is likely to be time consuming, Keller noted.

“It’s going to take some planning,” he said.

Whitten said she’d like to find a way to alter the process and make it easier for the council to dispose of the easily-resolved barricades more quickly. She noted, however, that the city is in the midst of other long-range planning right now, and has recently had a pair of department heads leave for new positions, so any serious study of changing the process might be a year or more away.

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