Update: Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff released a statement on the Mercer Island City Council’s votes to pursue a lawsuit and permitting moratoria seeking to block the upcoming start of construction of East Link light rail in the center lanes of I-90 across Lake Washington.
At a packed City Council meeting Monday evening, the City of Mercer Island announced its intention to sue Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) over single-occupant vehicle (SOV) access to I-90’s HOV lanes. The lawsuit is in response to a February 1 letter from WSDOT and ST, in which the agencies correctly claim that it would violate federal law to permit SOVs to use federally-funded HOV lanes.
Though much has been of Mercer Island’s more ridiculous requests, including special bus access for their residents and Islander-only parking, the immediate issue seems to be continued SOV access from Island Crest Way (ICW) to westbound I-90. Today, there are 3 ramps to/from ICW. The two reversible ramps to the I-90 express lanes will be permanently displaced by East Link, but there is also a westbound on-ramp that Mercer Island SOVs are currently entitled to use. Once two-way HOV lanes are in place across I-90 just 4 months from now, the westbound ICW ramp will feed into the new HOV lane, prohibiting SOV use under federal law. Without access from ICW, Islanders will go from four SOV ramps to three, with the remaining westbound ramps at East Mercer Way (1.4 miles from ICW), 76th Ave SE (3,500′ from ICW), and West Mercer Way (1.4 miles).
According to Erica Barnett, who live-tweeted the meeting Monday night, the city’s motion will seek an initial 6-month moratorium on East Link permitting, seeking to bring the parties back to the negotiating table. The city also implied that further suits to delay the project are on the table, with CM Dan Grausz saying, “The public has been asking for lawsuits. You’re going to get them in spades.” To fund the additional $600,000 in expected legal fees for this first stage, Mayor Bruce Bassett told the crowd that the city would defer public projects on things like ballfields and public boat docks. Other councilmembers also solicited donations from the crowd, noting that they are tax deductible.
We have requested comment from Sound Transit, and we will update/clarify this post tomorrow, when more information is expected to be released by the city. Erica’s tweets are after the jump.