If you want to be the cool kid at Wednesday night’s meetup, you can attend the groundbreaking for Stage 2 of the I-90 two-way HOV project at 1 pm that afternoon, at the Mercer Island Boat Launch (3600 E. Mercer Way).  This project replaces the HOV express lanes in the center roadway so that light rail can be built there.  In the view of reverse commuters like me, it also improves on them by providing a carpool lane in both directions at all times of day.

The community built around STB should be proud of this particular event, as your emails were an important element of the campaign to prevent the legislature from defunding this project in 2009.

14 Replies to “R8A Stage 2 Groundbreaking Wednesday”

  1. An interesting article related to HOV conversion, tolls on 520, I-90, and other federal highways in the region may be found at Transport Politic this morning.
    Sec. LaHood has put the brakes on tolling Interstate highways for anything but auto related costs on that particular roadway(ref: Pennsylvainia).

    1. I wonder what the Pennsylvania decision means for the prospects of tolling I-90 – a federal interstate highway the vast majority of which was paid for with federal funds – in order to close the $2 billion gap for rebuilding state route 520. Absent tolls on I-90 (all the lanes, not just to make HOT lanes) I don’t know where those funds will come from. We also need to repave I-5, to the tune of approximately $2 billion. And of course we will need new revenue sources for more transit investments.

      I think all of our limited access highways in the urbanized area of Puget Sound will eventually be electronically tolled. This would raise revenues and help us get the most of the system we have; tolling has the potential to significantly reduce congestion that leads to wasted time and fuel. But regulatory barriers may be standing in the way of that vision.

      I have a feeling the gas tax is headed upwards at the federal, state and local levels — and for better or worse, our state constitution restricts the use of those funds to highway uses.

      1. As I recall tolling on I-90 wasn’t going to do much to raise money for 520. I believe the stipulation was that all money raise would have to be spent on the I-90 corridor. Of course that would mean gas tax money which would have been used could be freed up for 520 so indirectly the funds could be shifted. The main reason for tolling 90 was to try and cut back on traffic diverting to 90 if only 520 was tolled. I guess this also raises the revenue from 520 tolls since more people will use 520 (522 will get the brunt of the diverted traffic) but I don’t think that amounts to a large revenue increase. Extending the tolling all the way out to 202 would probably make a pretty good dent in the budget shortfall. Seems fair since other than the bridge its self the section between NE 51st and 202 is seeing the greatest improvement.

      2. The improvements from West Lake Sammamish to SR202 are a different project. I think the only (direct) effect of the 520 bridge + HOV project on this section will be re-striping to put the HOV lanes on the inside.

      3. I don’t think the state restricts gas tax to highway use – it restricts it instead to use that involves the gas being purchased. Snowmobile trails are groomed in the winter using state gas tax money, and the state gives grants to the U.S. Forest Service to maintain dirtbike trails. Several years back, Washington Trails Association successfully sued to have some of those funds diverted to nonmotorized trails, arguing that hikers and mountain bikers drive to the trailheads and that the Forest Service roads they drive on are not at all state-funded. Maybe that case could be precedent-setting if anyone ever tries to get something else non-internal combustion engine related funded – like transit or grooming cross country ski trails.

      4. Whoops, I was wrong. It wasn’t a lawsuit; it was lobbying. Check out the information at

        The description of the state program for gas tax funding trails is in the section called “Washington Trails Association as a Voice for Hikers.”

        So I was also wrong that this could be precedent-setting legally. But politically it could also demonstrate that a will exists to fund things other than individual, motorized activities (e.g., snowmobiling and driving your own car) exists in our state; however, the amounts of money involved in trail maintenance and transit capital projects are a little bit different.

      5. So it’s not that the state doesn’t restrict it to highway use. It’s that in the years since 1944, political will has existed every once in a while to redefine what “highway” means under the amendment by adding programs like trail maintenance and winter grooming.

      6. Was the law intended to exclude transit, or did it just want to prevent the money from going into the general fund?

  2. The Mercer Island Station NEEDS to be lidded to create a subway-like feeling. No one wants to be deafened by the roar of I-90 traffic. Silence is golden.

    1. Is any noise mitigation or protection proposed for train passengers for the two East Link stations located in the middle of I-90? (Rainier, Mercer Island.) At least a wall of some kind? Otherwise it’s going to be very loud down there. I experienced something similar countless times waiting for trains in the median of Chicago expressways as a kid. Mercer Island station is below grade and noise will reflect off the outer walls and echo there. The Montlake bus stops sure are noisy, and only has 4 lanes of adjacent traffic.

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