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Posted at 02:59 a.m. PDT; Thursday, May 28, 1998

Group seeks ways to ease traffic congestion across lake

by Peyton Whitely
Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Working with maps and felt-tip pens, 45 members of a new group seeking ways to ease traffic across Lake Washington sketched out their first impressions of the challenge yesterday.

The group found no shortage of problems, but solutions, if any, will come later.

The occasion was the first meeting of the Trans-Lake Washington Study Committee at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.

By June 1999, the committee is to come up with a set of "reasonable and feasible solutions" for moving people across the lake.

There was general agreement that no simple solutions are expected. The people who convened the group, notably state transportation officials, also vowed that there are no hidden agendas, no preferred solutions.

"We have absolutely no preconceived notions," said Transportation Secretary Sid Morrison, who made welcoming comments. "We come to you with absolutely nothing to sell."

Morrison briefly summed up the present difficulties. They include rush-hour-type congestion seven hours a day on the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge and the lack of shoulders on the bridge to deal with 600 vehicle breakdowns every year.

Morrison said the group's biggest challenge, however, would be communication.

"The question is whether people around this table will talk to each other," he said. The group is composed of widely diverse interests, including representatives of automobile-industry trade groups, neighborhoods, cities, employers and transit agencies.

To define issues, the committee split into small groups with maps and colored pens to sketch their geographic areas of concern and list three issues affecting each area.

Congestion, noise, growth, wetlands pollution, freight mobility, traffic that cuts through cities and neighborhoods, lack of transit options and problems recruiting new employees because of congestion came up repeatedly.

Monthly meetings are planned over the next year on both sides of the lake.

The next session is scheduled for 1 to 4 p.m. July 1 at either the museum or Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.

The $2.8 million study was funded by the state to deal with traffic difficulties that have developed in the Highway 520 corridor over more than 30 years. Initially proposed as a plan to replace or expand the Evergreen Point bridge, the study was expanded to consider any option, including another bridge, ferries or a tunnel.

The study area ranges from Interstate 90 to Bothell and from Redmond to Interstate 5.

Peyton Whitely's phone message number is 206-464-2259. His e-mail address is: pwhi-new@seatimes.com


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