Traffic in and out of Sammamish has gotten so bad that the city is flirting with some unusual solutions.
A few years ago there was an idea to run a gondola over Lake Sammamish, connecting Sammamish and Bellevue. The idea was nothing more than a pie-in-the-sky thought. Fast-forward a few years of intense growth and worsening congestion, and the city is getting creative.
Sammamish Mayor Christie Malchow said most people don’t realize that the city has no direct access to major state highways and there are only a few ways in and out.
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“We have to rely on our arterials to get us somewhere else,” Malchow said. “We end up filing all of our drivers through bottlenecks.”
One of the worst chokepoints is where East Lake Sammamish Parkway intersects with Highway 202 in Redmond. It’s the most direct way for Sammamish drivers to get to SR 520 and that intersection is a nightmare. It can’t handle all the traffic, but Sammamish can’t do anything about it because the intersection is in Redmond.
“Even if you had 15 lanes on the Parkway, it still wouldn’t help you get through the bottleneck,” Malhow said. “What we really need to do is start looking at some unique ways that we can help our residents get to 520.”
Just how outside the box is Mayor Malchow thinking? Possibly a bridge over Lake Sammamish.
“Do we look at a bridge,” she said. “I started looking across the lake and saying ‘if we have it come off Englewood Hill Road, where does it land’? Then we start talking to Bellevue.”
Malchow admitted this isn’t the most realistic idea. A bridge would dump traffic into quiet residential Bellevue neighborhoods and it would likely cost way too much. A more realistic idea is a mosquito fleet of small boats or a limited ferry system to connect Sammamish with Bellevue.
“I don’t think that that’s cost prohibitive,” she said of a mosquito fleet. “Something that is ferry-esque I think could potentially help solve the problem or at least alleviate the headache.”
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