Bridge alternatives need scrutiny

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The King County Department of Transportation Road Services Division has formed a community advisory group to look at five options for the replacement of the Mount Si Bridge. Each option given has various impacts to adjacent properties, as well as associated costs.

But before we even consider the project, let's consider the process. The county, in recent times, has moved away from a public-hearing process and more toward an open-house/written-comment process. That exact process has been used to inform the community of this project, as well as other significant projects like the Cadman gravel pit.

The process has one fatal flaw, and that is one of body language and passion. In a public hearing, the emotions regarding a specific project are very real. Yes, many times representatives are berated about the project at hand, and, unfortunately, some oral arguments focus on the person rather than the project.

But in a public hearing, the group responsible for the project, such as the county, has the opportunity to see the democratic process work in its full glory. You would see the face of the adjacent property owner who will be impacted by the relocation of the approaches. You would hear their concern about imminent-domain possibilities, as the county acquires specific parcels of land. Body language and the spoken word in the course of evaluating a project are a necessary element of the review process. Easels and written comments are only a portion of the process.

In the case of the Mount Si Bridge, I urge the county to hold public hearings sometime during the process. In addition, this is not a quasijudicial process, so you can give the community advisory group comments. I would hope that those comments would be constructive and non-personal, but when you see advisory group members in the store, hey, let them know which option you think is the best.

In addition to the process, I have concerns about the various options. From a cost perspective, it becomes clear that the existing location would have the highest financial impact. The option recommended in the project report would have the existing structure removed, possibly destroyed, and a new bridge built in close to the same location with different approaches.

Fire commissioners for District 38, which serves that area, have asked the county to consider one of the options that looks at a new bridge in a different location. Their reasons are simple: to provide an alternative route that would provide two points of entry into the area north of the river. Leave the existing structure as a foot bridge and use it in case of emergency if the situation so warranted.

I agree with the fire commissioners' concerns and also agree that Option 1, a new bridge that connects to North Bend Way at 436th, is likely a better scenario. Costs and impacts would be similar, and the access would be slightly more centrally located to the Mount Si Road. In all scenarios there will be some impact to adjacent property owners.

So as we, the community, work through this process, make sure your concerns are heard. Watch this newspaper for updates on activities. If you would like to know more about the community advisory group, contact Barbara de Michele at (206) 263-3792.

Jim McKiernan

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