The city council unanimously voted to develop a new road realigning the southern end of NE 171st Street to the northern end of Little Bear Creek Parkway along 135th Avenue NE.
As discussed Tuesday night during its August 1 session, the two-lane road realignment includes a street cross-section, a left turn lane at NE 175th Street, and two full 13’ sidewalks along the western side and part of the eastern side. An 8’ wide on-street parking would also be added on the west side with 5’ amenity zones along most of both sides of the future street.
Construction on the grid road would take place by 2019 or 2020 at the earliest. It would require the acquisition of three parcels of land, totaling roughly 10,000 square feet in all, and bend to minimize its impact on local property owners.
“I think it can be set up, it is a future obligation, but not necessarily to have them put asphalt down as of today,” said City Manager Brandon Buchanan. “We’ll acquire the right to acquire that road, but we won’t actually do anything until we actually build the road.”
As a condition of redevelopment of the property, affected future city developers will be obligated to dedicate the area for the street and pay to construct that portion of the street.
The proposed alignment does not extend to a future crossing of the Eastside Rail Corridor, although its connection to Woodinville-Snohomish Road could accommodate a future extension once the presence of rail operations and its impacts on the design is determined.
One modification to the project was made directly at the north end of the alignment to avoid running through property occupied by Fire District Headquarters. Turning northwest was also prohibitive given the location of the Post Office building. With the location of those buildings, city management determined the only practical path would be toward the northeast through Fire District-owned surplus property. “In an ideal world, [the fire district] would be interested in moving downtown and different parts of our community,” Buchanan said. “That is going to prove challenging.” Councilmember Boundy-Sanders said she wanted to ensure that both sets of sidewalks extended all the way down the street.
“I’ve lived in places where sidewalks suddenly stop like we’re drawing here, it always leaves a kind of bitter taste in your mouth that this poor sidewalk has been abandoned,” Boundy-Sanders said. “I would not want to build that into plans for our downtown.” Buchanan told the council that, in its current form, the alignment’s layout was virtually set in stone, but reminded them that the night’s motion would only be a preliminary step. Councilmember Les Rubstello suggested that the council wait to start building the street once more research on future city development had been conducted.
“We can do a roundabout or a turn signal, we can do all the sidewalk in asphalt rather than concrete, because you might have development on both sides, and you don’t know what’ll happen with the parcels on both sides,” said Councilmember Rubstelllo. “Rather than force us to pay costs and buy that building now, best thing to get that road in as best as we can, and have a plan for the future as much as possible.”
Councilmember Elaine Cook and Deputy Mayor James Evans both expressed concerns over the unknown cost of acquiring the parcels. “I’ll support sidewalks all day long, but I’m concerned what authorizing an acquisition of a building, cost, size, and anything else that I haven’t researched would mean,” Evans said. In the meantime, Buchanan urged the council to begin pursuing necessary property acquisitions as soon as possible in the coming months.
With substantial funding allocated in the current city budget for undesignated land, resources for constructing the street would likely be accommodated in a future city budget.