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Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Redmond tries to gird for Nintendo growth

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Nintendo of America wants to expand. And when it does, Redmond hopes a little foresight now will keep traffic from becoming even more clogged around the company's U.S. headquarters.

The maker of such video-game icons as Mario and Luigi of Super Mario Bros. fame and Donkey Kong wants to add more than 550,000 square feet of building area on its property at the northeast corner of Northeast 51st Street and 148th Avenue Northeast, according to city planning documents.

It's in the midst of crafting an agreement with Redmond that will guide that development over the next 10 years and determine how it will ease the traffic impacts of that growth, as well as impacts on the environment and the surrounding community.

A City Council vote on the agreement, already delayed several times, likely won't come until February, said Jim Roberts, the city's assistant planning director.

"We want to get it right," Roberts said.

Redmond hopes Nintendo formally agrees to set aside a path through its campus for bikes and pedestrians to use that also could become the future route for a bus, train, shuttle system, monorail or some other type of "people mover."

It's an idea Redmond planners have tossed around for years, Roberts said, as they strive to ease the gridlock that forms near Nintendo, its neighbor Microsoft, and throughout the Overlake neighborhood.

"We just don't know where technology is going to go. We felt we needed to get a placeholder in there for whatever," Roberts said. "If you don't get the land now, it's going to be much more expensive to get in the future."

Ideally, the people mover would roll through campus to connect with 150th Avenue Northeast, travel south to 36th Street to reach Microsoft, and go over Highway 520 if another bridge is built to cross the freeway.

Whatever ends up going there likely will be more a means of ferrying employees and local residents to and from lunchtime destinations and major housing centers than a full-fledged transit service, Roberts said.

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"We know it's going to be important for that area in the future to get some of this traffic off the streets," he said.

Beth Llewelyn, a Nintendo of America spokeswoman, said via e-mail that plans have not been completed and that it was too early for the company to discuss specifics.

Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or kgaudette@seattletimes.com

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