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Can Issaquah residents come together? | Transportation plan focuses on density

Fred Foster, a member of the Planning Policy Commission, who saw the rise of suburbia, says people care coming back to public transportation and density. - CELESTE GRACEY, Issaquah Reporter
Fred Foster, a member of the Planning Policy Commission, who saw the rise of suburbia, says people care coming back to public transportation and density.
— image credit: CELESTE GRACEY, Issaquah Reporter

As a Chicago boy in the 1940s, Fred Foster grew up in a big city, riding big city transportation.

It wasn’t until he joined the military that he learned to drive a car.

Like many of the Korean War era, he returned from the service to choose a less congested life in the countryside.

Armed with the G.I. Bill, he bought a suburban home and accepted the suburban commute. It was the American dream.

That dream is coming full circle again, he says. “What we’re trying to do is to get people to come together again.”

A member of the Planning Policy Commission, Foster regularly gives input on the Central Issaquah Plan, which would determine what the valley floor will look like in the next 30-50 years.

The CIP embraces a new type of suburbia, one with an urban core.

The plan fits the generations now entering the work force, which have a changed philosophy about where they want to live and work, he said.

The next generation wants to do away with long commutes. It wants to be able to walk more places, and it doesn’t mind public transportation, he explained.

“I think people are realizing that all the time you spend in your car is time you can be doing something else,” said Adam Parast, associate editor of the Seattle Transit Blog.

Young people are also less prosperous than the Baby Boomers, and they’re less trusting of the housing market. They don’t necessarily want to buy a house, he said.

“It changes what we thought was the ideal,” Foster said, adding that he’s been surprised that families would want to give up homes for condos closer to work, but it’s the future regardless.

The central plan would turn the flat industrial areas along State Route 900 and south of I-90 into condo and apartment neighborhoods.

While more density usually means more traffic, CIP organizers are convinced this can be done without any traffic impact.

The plan does this by emphasizing safe walking paths, bike lanes and mixed-use buildings that provide grocery stores closer to home.

The concept is to live, work and play without having to drive anywhere.

Most trips people take are within five miles of their homes. By convincing people to give up the car for those trips, you eliminate most of the traffic, Parast explained.

The goal isn’t to get rid of the car, but to reduce its use, Foster said. “We can’t forget that (the car) is our way of life.”

Boulevards would still be focused on getting cars through the city quickly.

“We don’t want to get rid of cars, but we want there to be a lot more options,” said Trish Heinonen, a long-term city planner.

The plan also focuses on connectivity.

Standing on the corner of Gilman Boulevard and 12th street, Foster pointed to a small strip mall that would be replaced by another I-90 overpass.

Residents of the new urban core could walk to PCC, the Pickering Barn or soccer practice at Lake Sammamish State Park.

“It would be like we wouldn’t have this big highway between the town,” Heinonen said.

 

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