Mercer Island and Sound Transit Reach Tentative Agreement
June 1, 2017 - (3:30pm) Last night, the Mercer Island City Council voted 5-1 to accept a package of mitigation measures from Sound Transit, valued at just over ten million dollars, which will offset the impacts of light rail construction and operation and partially compensate for permanent impacts to local traffic patterns, including the loss of access to westbound I-90 from the Island’s only 4-lane arterial (Island Crest Way).
Following extensive negotiations, this offer provided mitigation in all the areas the community identified as its top priorities:
Mitigation packages are not uncommon for affected communities in the path of light rail expansion, and the funds within each mitigation category will be available for the City to use as it sees fit. The agreement reached last night is a framework, and the actual settlement language must be voted on by both parties later this month. In the meantime, the City, Sound Transit, and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) have suspended their respective legal actions.
- Transit Access and Safety: $5.3 million to address vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian access issues resulting from the closure of the Center Roadway or fund “last-mile solutions” that enable Islanders to access transit without driving.
- Parking: $4.6 million that will provide approximately 100 additional commuter parking stalls during the East Link construction period (2017-2023), and will fund construction of new commuter parking for residents.
- Bus-Rail Integration: No bus facility will be built on 80th Avenue - instead, all pick-up and drop-offs will continue to occur on North Mercer Way, as they do today, and bus volumes are comparable to today.
“While this has been an all-consuming and expensive process for Council and staff, I’m pleased that we have finally reached a settlement that advances the mobility needs of our residents” said Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Bassett, “and we appreciate the last-minute effort to reach an agreement by members of the Sound Transit Board.” The Council intends to discuss its decision more fully with residents at its next regular meeting on Monday, June 5.
The settlement vote came just hours before a scheduled Thursday morning hearing in King County Superior Court on the City’s motion for preliminary injunction against the WSDOT and Sound Transit. If granted, that injunction would have delayed the scheduled June 3 closure of the I-90 Center Roadway and the start of related light rail construction in order to ensure both agencies meaningfully consult with the City to seek concurrence on loss of mobility and mitigation measures.
The City’s lawsuit, filed early this year, asserts that legally-binding commitments regarding mobility were made under a 1976 Agreement and subsequent 2004 Amendment to ensure public safety and the continued mobility of drivers to and from Mercer Island.
Although the settlement itemizes a number of mitigation measures, it does not prevent the planned closure of the Island Crest Way westbound on-ramp to SOV traffic on June 3, stipulated by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in August 2016 and again on May 23, 2017. The City Council will not cease in its efforts to advocate for a federal solution to this on-ramp issue, in collaboration with its regional partners and the Congressional delegation.
To learn more about light rail across Mercer Island, visit: www.mercergov.org/Rail