In addition to 10 city mayors, several members of state and local government were in attendance at the summit, including, from left, Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, 5th District Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah), King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, 5th District Rep.-elect Paul Graves (R-Fall City), 41st District Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) and 41st District Sen.-elect Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island).

Issaquah mayor convenes regional transportation summit

Elected officials from the city, state and county levels gathered with transportation experts on Nov. 22 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Issaquah to discuss one of the region’s biggest concerns — traffic and its growing impact on Eastside roadways.

Issaquah Mayor Fred Butler organized the event to look for a way that the entire region could come together to work on a problem that affects everyone.

“Finding regional solutions for addressing traffic flow is essential,” Butler said. “Years from now, I hope we can look back on this first meeting as an important turning point in addressing traffic flow.”

Butler highlighted the Issaquah-Hobart Road as problematic, noting that the pass-through traffic on the road makes driving downtown a nightmare for Issaquah locals.

Ten mayors — from Snoqualmie, North Bend, Issaquah, Sammamish, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Renton, Newcastle, Maple Valley and Covington — all participated in the event, as well as King County Council members, state legislators, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, representatives from the Washington State Department of Transportation, King County Metro and the Sound Cities Association, and even the superintendent of the Issaquah School District, Ron Thiele.

More than 100 people attended the summit to observe the proceedings.

Many area roads have issues

Issaquah-Hobart Road was not the only thoroughfare deemed to have issues.

“State Route 18 is at a level-F; it’s already in failure,” Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson said.

Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend said that his city’s residents “don’t have a direct route from Sammamish to Seattle.” One option to get out of town is to take State Route 202, but “it chokes up” frequently, he said.

County Executive Dow Constantine noted that 260 people either move to or are born in King County every day, a statistic that means congestion will only increase in the future.

Crisis-level traffic even affects the school district, Thiele said, as teachers who live in more affordable areas of the county do not want to battle the traffic to get to Issaquah every day.

“It’s actually preventing us from being able to implement innovative things that we want to do,” Thiele said. “People are just not willing to live in Auburn and commute to Issaquah. I’ve never seen a hiring crisis like we have now.”

Solutions require cooperation

A variety of ideas for solutions were tossed around during the last hour of the summit, such as better access to public transit, finding new sources of revenue for road projects, improved bus transit and maximizing parking at park-and-rides. With an eye to the future, Gerend discussed self-driving bus routes and government-subsidized Uber rides for the elderly.

One thing that everyone agreed on, however, was the need to work together.

“This is not just a city-by-city issue, this is not just a county roads issue, this is not just a state highway issue,” said Deanna Dawson, executive director of Sound Cities Association. “This is a crisis in terms of funding and prioritization in this region.”

“Three things come to my mind, collaboration, coalition and together,” Butler said. “I think this conversation has been a great start.”

“The problems we’re identifying here are really regional,” King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci said. “We could have the same conversation across King County.”

The group plans to meet again in the spring of 2017.

“I do believe we all have a better appreciation of what’s killing us in our community, and I do believe that through this conversation we have hope,” Butler said at the end of the meeting. “But we’re not going to solve it in an afternoon.”

He told the Reporter that the summit “went very well. You can tell by the enthusiasm in the room … that everyone is committed to solving regional pass-through traffic.”

Nicole Jennings/staff photos Issaquah Mayor Fred Butler addresses the crowd to open up the discussion on regional transportation issues.

More in News

Mayor John Marchione was among many community members to place their handprints in the wet cement below the new sign at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound in Redmond after the mosque’s old sign was vandalized in 2016. File photo
Examining hate crimes on the Eastside

The Anti-Defamation League has been tracking hate-fueled crimes and incidents to paint a picture of trends in communities.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaking following his tour at Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic in Seattle on Feb. 7. Ashley Hiruko/staff photo.
Local House reps. vote in favor of removing MMR personal exemptions

Eastside politicians vote overwhelmingly in favor of HB 1638.

United Methodist vote has churches’ future in question

Congregations debate separation following gay-clergy, same-sex marriage ban.

Fall City voters will decide on fire district merger on April 23

Fire District 27 may merge with Eastside Fire and Rescue’s District 10 after the upcoming election.

SVSD bus yard following snowstorm. Photo courtesy of Snoqualmie Valley School District
Eastside schools announce schedule accommodations to snow days

MISD, SVSD, NSD and BSD have announced their plans to address the school days missed to Feb. snowstorms.

Sip Suds and Si returns to North Bend with wine, beer, art and live music. Photo courtesy of North Bend Downtown Foundation‎.
Sip Suds and Si returns to North Bend

The North Bend Downtown Foundation is partnering with wineries, breweries, artists and musicians for the second Sip Suds and Si.

Courtney Gregoire, Port of Seattle Commissioner, will speak at the Eastside Regional Business Summit on April 25. Photo courtesy of the Port of Seattle
Issaquah Chamber to host Eastside Regional Business Summit

The Greater Issaquah Chamber of Commerce will host the summit in Snoqualmie along with partners.

The Cedar Hills Regional Landfill is the only active landfill in King County. It will operate until at least 2028. It has been in operation since the 1960s. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Waste study puts numbers behind King County trash alternatives

County has one remaining landfill located near Maple Valley, and it’s nearing capacity

Most Read