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A bridge connecting Sammamish and Bellevue?

(MyNorthwest photo)

Traffic in and out of Sammamish has gotten so bad that the city is flirting with some unusual solutions.

Send Chris a Chokepoint idea or complaint

I think we all laughed pretty hard a few years ago when we first heard 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.

“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,” Malchow 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? We’re talking 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 Inglewood Hill Road, where does it land’?  Then we start talking to Bellevue.”

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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.”

Malchow is hoping to partner with Microsoft on boat service across the lake. It already has connector buses so why not connector boats? Microsoft has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Malchow said the congestion is so bad that something has to be done.

“I hope that this discussion that we’re having will lead us down the path of actually doing something about it, rather than just putting our head in the sand and saying ‘we can’t do anything about it.'”

The city has had a moratorium on new development for about a year because of the growing congestion, and that might continue if Sammamish can’t find a solution.

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