I-90 floating bridge with Mercer Island in the background (Image: Joe Wolf)

Mercer Island has reached agreement with Sound Transit on access to I-90. The agreement means the express lanes can close permanently to auto traffic as scheduled this weekend. A planned hearing this morning in King County Superior Court on Mercer Island’s injunction to prevent the closures is now cancelled.

The agreement includes $10 million in traffic improvements on the island and replacement parking for the South Bellevue P&R lot which closed for East Link construction earlier this week. Mercer Island Council approved the agreement shortly before midnight last night after a 6 1/2 hour executive session. Approval from the Sound Transit Board is anticipated at the June 22 Board meeting.

The Seattle Times first reported the deal outline, and the offer sheet is here. A further readout is anticipated from Mercer Island later today. [UPDATE: Mercer Island’s press statement is here]. Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff outlined major elements of the agreement at the O&A Committee meeting this afternoon.

The agreement includes:

  • $5.1 million contribution from Sound Transit to Mercer Island for improvements related to traffic congestion and bike/pedestrian safety. The city will determine the projects to be funded.
  • $4.5 million from Sound Transit to build up to 200 permanent park-and-ride spaces on Mercer Island. Sound Transit would fund up to 49% of the cost of dedicated transit parking at TOD projects or structured parking projects.
  • The bus-rail intercept to be moved to a location “more conducive to Mercer Island’s long term vision for its town center”. This means no pick-up or drop-off on 80th Ave SE; buses not to drive through the Town Center via SE 27th; bus volumes on N Mercer Way not to exceed current volumes. These provisions would not apply to Mercer Island only routes. Pick-ups and drop-offs would be on the south side of N Mercer Way between 77th Ave SE and 80th Ave SE. Layovers would only occur in the PM peak and would be limited to 15 minutes.
  • Sound Transit to lease 100 temporary parking spots for transit users on Mercer Island. These would be within a 1/3 mile walkshed or served by transit or shuttle service. The temporary parking would be available through the construction of the new South Bellevue parking structure. Sound Transit has already leased or expanded seven other lots to mitigate the closure of the South Bellevue P&R, and continues discussions on other leases in Bellevue.
  • A last mile pilot project with King County Metro to improve transit access for residents. This would potentially be extended elsewhere in the region.
  • Sound Transit to make contributions to parks and I-90 emergency response.
  • Both parties to stay all current litigation and regulatory action affecting East Link while approval is pending. All current lawsuits to be dismissed if the settlement is approved. The City of Mercer Island to acknowledge that any obligations from the 1976 agreement will be satisfied.

The agreement surely comes as a relief for all parties. While Mercer Island’s legal position did not appear strong, the agreement eliminates the risk of an injunction delaying rail construction to Bellevue and Redmond. It also resolves longstanding issues around bus access to the rail station, though it’s not yet clear how the limits on bus operations will affect Eastside transit users.

66 Replies to “Agreement reached on Mercer Island access to I-90”

  1. I they are so worried about bus volumes, they should want East Link sooner, and should help facilitate it’s construction, not hinder it.

    1. They’re not worried about bus volumes. They’re worried about “but muh special access driving lanes!” Most of these Islanders pushing for the ST lawsuit probably have no intention of ever taking transit.

      1. Speaking as a Mercer Islander, I have every intention of using East Link, want it built yesterday, fully understand the “special access driving lanes” are going away and am fine with that (although I’ve certainly taken advantage of the Express Lanes and will miss them), but live close enough to North Mercer Way/77th Ave SE that I absolutely care about bus volumes. OTOH I didn’t care for the lawsuits. Point being, blanket statements about Mercer Island residents are… not helpful.

        Besides, there’s no way Mercer Island could speed up East Link, because the hard/time consuming parts are outside of Mercer Island’s ability to influence in a positive way.

      2. I agree, stereotyping Mercer island residents, or pretending to know what tens of thousands of people feel about a particular subject is rude and uncalled for.

        That being said, the decision to reduce bus volumes is very short sided. Just the other day I was talking to someone who had just moved into a Lake City apartment. When we talked about the positives in the neighborhood, one of the first things someone said was “you can quickly catch a bus to anywhere”. That may not be the case with Mercer Island. Metro and ST may decide to run buses frequently along the I-90 corridor, and thus be forced to terminate at South Bellevue. You would still be able to get to Eastgate, Factoria, Issaquah and the like, but it would take an extra five minutes (if not more) and involve two seats, not one.

    1. The Town Center is quite small and easily walkable from the current park and ride. Anyone wanting to visit the Town Center via transit could easily do so today. The station will be slightly closer, making transit access slightly better (significantly better if you take into account Link’s frequency and span of service). The Mercer Island City Council didn’t want significant regional bus traffic circulating through the Town Center area.

      1. We definitely don’t want any transit stops on the city’s only significant stretch of sidewalk-oriented retail.

      2. >> The Mercer Island City Council didn’t want significant regional bus traffic circulating through the Town Center area.

        Good heavens, why not? I am hard pressed to think of any major retail area in Seattle that doesn’t have frequent buses passing by: “The Ave”, otherwise known as University Way; the appropriately names Market Street in Ballard; lower Fremont; Wallingford (with its town center); downtown; upper Queen Anne; lower Queen Anne; it’s a very long list. Even formerly struggling, run down parts of town, like Northgate and Lake City have revitalized and thrived next to bus service.

        But your point about distance is a good one. It probably isn’t that far to walk. I think the “bus volume” issue is a bigger one. It limits what Metro and ST can do. The result could easily be less business for those shops, if the only direct connection between them and places off the island is via the train.

      3. Suppose the main UW campus were in Bothell and there was a P&R in Lake City. 90% of the people traveling through are people from Seattle going to UW Bothell or people from the north end going to downtown. Suppose further that Lake City Way and 125th were two-lane streets at that point, and the surrounding car dealerships were replaced by houses. This is more or less the situation at Mercer Island. The objection is not the few people on buses coming to Mercer Island, it’s all the commuters who are just transferring through there or staying on a bus through there because that’s what the bus network forces them to do. If it were just people going to Mercer Island the buses could be a lot smaller and fewer.

        As for Mercer Islanders commuting east, they can take East Link far and wide to wherever they’re going or transferring, they won’t all be going just one stop to South Bellevue, unless perhaps they’re going to Issaquah or Snoqualmie to join all those people on the Auburn-Snoqualmie express. If they’re going to Renton they’d probably transfer at Bellevue TC because I don’t think 405 BRT will stop at South Bellevue.

      4. I’m afraid I disagree with just about all of your points Mike. The main reason that Lake City is good from a bus perspective is that it is on the way. Yes, there is more density there than in surrounding locations. But it is also is a major geographic pinch point. A bus serving Sand Point Way, for example, can’t head directly north. It must head west to head north, which means it converges with the bus heading on 35th (in Lake City). The 522 is designed primarily to serve the 522 corridor, and it servers Lake City (which is on the way). From my count there are 7 frequent bus routes that serve Lake City, but only two (the 41 and 372) actually terminate there. Even the 372 often keeps going (to places north). When the guy at the bar said “you have buses that go everywhere” from Lake City, that is what he is talking about. It isn’t the density of Lake City that drives the 65, for example, it is just geography.

        Obviously things would change with your scenario — the 41 would not terminate there. But even if it ran a little less often, but kept going to Bothell, Lake City would benefit. If anything, under your scenario I see even better bus service. The 75 doesn’t head off to 145th and 15th, but heads north, connecting the two campuses. In such a scenario, it is pretty easy to assume the bus would run even more often.

        Mercer Island, like it or not, also has geographic advantages when it comes to the transit network. It is — as explained in the other comments — easy to get to from i-90. This makes it the logical terminus for I-90 buses. So buses from Issaquah, Sammamish and Eastgate (which has a freeway station) could easily serve it. These are destination worthy enough that Sound Transit felt they should be served by billion dollar light rail, yet you think a direct connection to a wider swath of that area is meaningless? Are you saying that people from, say, Costco headquarters, will flock to Link, even if it means taking a bus across the freeway to the station, but people from Mercer Island don’t want a direct bus there?

        Of course there will be other ways to get there. That isn’t the point. Other ways mean transfers, they mean delays. If South Bellevue becomes the major transfer station for I-90 bus service (which apparently is what the Mercer Island city council wants) then you can still get to those places off of I-90. But it will take at least five minutes, and require an extra transfer. I just don’t see how that is good for Mercer island, which is why I think the council is being ridiculously short sided.

      5. Mercer Island has a lot more buses passing through than Lake City does because it’s the funnel for the entire southern Eastside. Lake City has a sixth or an eighth of the north-south buses running through it.

        Mercer Island is also not at all like The Ave. The U-District is the second-largest destination in the region so tens of thousands of people are going there. The hordes of express buses are on 15th, a block away from the Ave, and it’s a four-lane straight road designed for high-volume buses.

        Mercer Island is being rather short-sighted, or at minimum it doesn’t know how to articulate what it wants. We have been wanting for a long time to give Islanders a non-car way to get to the station, but today was the first time I saw a Mercer Island politician directly asking for it, and I don’t know how sincere it was. (I.e., do Islanders really want a lot of feeder buses, or are they just saying that). And we can’t help but remember that Mercer Island did have all-day local buses as recently as four years ago, but they were canceled because of extremely low ridership.

  2. “Layovers would only occur in the PM peak and would be limited to 15 minutes.”

    Is King County Metro a party to this agreement or does it only affect Sound Transit routes?

    1. They are not, I think, parties, but are subject to it. It’s a Sound Transit station and Mercer Island streets. Presumably, they were consulted in the process and agreed to the various limits.

    2. I dont know of any buses that layover on mercer island, most of the bus swing through and pickup people from the transit center and move on. Are their any buses that would layover on mercer island?

      1. Routes 201 and 204 should, because they don’t ever leave the island. If more routes are created which take people from different parts of the island to the Link station, those would probably also lay over there.

      2. Currently, they don’t. But the intent is to truncate buses from places like Issaquah at Mercer Island. That would mean laying over at least while waiting for trains to arrive.

      3. Never mind, I just saw this doesn’t apply to island-only routes. In that case, only if there were some routes that took people from the Eastside to Mercer Island station. But I think they would rather take them to South Bellevue if the route is just to take people to a Link station, and so wouldn’t need to lay over on the island.

      4. Brian
        Bullet 3
        “These provisions would not apply to Mercer Island only routes”
        and the 201 and 204 are Metro Routes not Sound Transit

      5. It would be just as easy to truncate at the south Bellevue P&R. One extra Stop going into Seattle and one less stop if your going into Bellevue.

      6. The I-90 ramp configuration makes Mercer Island safer and almost as fast.

        For South Bellevue, you’d need buses to merge across the entire freeway between the Eastgate/142nd Place SE HOV direct access ramp (on the left) and the Bellevue Way ramp (on the right), in about 2/3 of a mile. This is doable but tricky; the 556 does this but that’s one route with 10 daily trips including up to three per hour (in the 6am hour with minimal traffic), not multiple routes with hundreds of daily trips and 40+ per hour during peak.

        Compared to South Bellevue, Mercer Island is about a 2 minute time penalty westbound, and zero minutes eastbound (due to waiting for the traffic signal to turn left onto southbound Bellevue Way).

        The above only applies to I-90 routes. The I-405 to I-90 ramp configuration makes truncating the 111 and 114 (and possibly the 560, 566, and 567) at South Bellevue more attractive because they end up the ramps to Bellevue Way anyway.

        And with all that said, the point of this provision is to enable the physical infrastructure necessary to implement bus route truncation at Mercer Island. Any decision(s) on future service patterns are years away.

      7. I don’t think route 201 lays over much if at all. It’s a 2/1 trip peak-only route, reduced during the 2014 cuts. Though it really makes no sense at all to send a bus from the base to do a coverage route if it only does one trip, or even two trips. The one southbound trip in the evening completes 25 revenue minutes, and I guarantee that it takes much longer than that to deadhead to and from the route.

      8. Jason as a Thought, a new way of doing business Buses coming from I-90 could get off at the 150th free way exit head down east gate way stop at the transit center directly and then get back on the freeway at the bottom of the hill, which would allow for a non-dangerous shifting across traffic and a connection to the south Bellevue P&R.

      9. Ian,
        Sure you could do that, but the cost in time is significant due to traffic signals and congestion in the Eastgate area, especially during peak. It is a 3-minute time penalty right now according to Google Maps (8:50am on Friday) and traffic is pretty minimal. If we’re forcing a transfer to Link, we need to minimize travel and transfer time to make the transfer palatable.

      10. Jason
        As someone who uses the east gate park and ride as their main transit hub it about a two min walk up the stairs and down the road to make transfers.

        Not every bus will or should make this detour and the main point was keeping the amount of ideal buses on mercer Island to minimum/current levels due to the truncation of routes.

        As Bellevue Grows more people will be commuting to downtown Bellevue which is one of the reasons why the are moved the HOV lanes to main section of the freeway.

        Upon the completion of east link the massive restructuring of of all east side transit is going to make much of what we are discussing here moot

      11. Oh, absolutely. If you can tell me what traffic will be like in 2023 I’d also love some stock tips :)

        I’ve mentioned before that ST has been kicking around the idea of deleting the 554 and instead going with an all-day 555/556 (truncated to the U-District) once East Link opens. That gives you a good connection between Issaquah, Bellevue, and the U-District as well as providing for better service to Eastgate and not really hurting Issaquah-Seattle riders. They’re also fairly publicly considering just rerouting the 554 to Bellevue TC and deleting the 555/556 (see https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/01/08/the-future-of-st-express-frequent-feeder-service/)

      12. And with all that said, the point of this provision is to enable the physical infrastructure necessary to implement bus route truncation at Mercer Island.

        Not as I read it:

        1) They limit bus volumes. If you limit bus volumes, then it is quite likely that Metro will simply send (and truncate) all the buses to South Bellevue. As mentioned, this is where the I-405 buses will be sent. You will have buses to Factoria from there, and that likely means a bus to Eastgaate as well. Combing all that is not a crazy idea, even if it is a bit slower. That way you can get from, say, Renton to Issaquah with one transfer (not two).

        2) Layovers would only occur in the PM peak. This is not when layovers are important. During the PM (and AM) peak, the buses and trains run frequently, which means that you don’t need to worry as much about the layover. It is during the evening that it matters. If the train comes every 10 to 15 minutes, then you want that bus waiting for you. This again makes South Bellevue more attractive. You could run the buses to Mercer Island during peak, and South Bellevue during the evening, but that gets confusing. I’m sure in a few years ST and Metro will be wondering if they can send all the buses to South Bellevue.

        All of this suggests that Mercer Island leaders (the ones that made this settlement) really don’t care about bus service. Oh, they might like better bus service on the island (especially when they realize that park and rides don’t scale) but in terms of being a regional transit center (with all day, frequent transit service to places along the I-90 corridor) they aren’t interested.

      13. It depends what you want buses for, right? If you think transit is something you drive to so you can go to downtown Seattle, then they have their train and buses are for somebody else.

        If you want a transit network that lets you go anywhere anytime, then you want as many trains AND buses as you can bring to your island.

        What Mercer Island has insisted on, and gotten, is a permanent cap on the number of places they can get to via transit. For a good part of the 2023-2041 window, that cap is likely to be binding, and some buses that could have served the island will serve South Bellevue instead.

      14. It depends on what exactly the limit is and how it is calculated. There are more buses the pass through Mercer Island on I-90 than actually stop there (roughly half stop I think). If you’re including all buses that travel on I-90, then the limit isn’t that onerous because 50-60 per hour (at peak) exceeds both the low end (40) and high end (56) peak buses per hour projections for 2035. If the limit is buses that stop on Mercer Island, that is severely limiting because current peak volumes are under 30 per hour. Daily volumes aren’t an issue.

        Layovers aren’t much of an issue because in the AM peak you can live-loop and layover at the distant terminal. You need short layovers in the PM peak because you want to have buses ready to meet arriving trains so they can load and go while accounting for peak period reliability issues. During the day and evening you can arrange the schedule properly and have a long dwell-time (~2 min or whatever) to ensure nobody is missing a connection.

        As I’ve stated before, I think what we end up with is Issaquah/Sammamish routes (and maybe a North Bend route) serving Mercer Island, I-405 routes like the 111 and 114 (and possibly 560, 566, and 567) serving South Bellevue, and Eastgate service being the swing factor. The 212’s current routing makes it easy to send to South Bellevue, but if you could send it to Mercer Island instead you’d just delete the 212 and beef up the 214 using the Eastgate freeway station.

      15. The buses that currently pass through on I-90 will change to terminating on the island if that’s where the intercept is. So the bus volumes will double if nothing is done. I’ve found it hard to remember all the pieces too. But currently the 550 and 554 stop on the island while the Metro peak expresses don’t.

      16. Layovers aren’t much of an issue because in the AM peak you can live-loop and layover at the distant terminal. You need short layovers in the PM peak because you want to have buses ready to meet arriving trains so they can load and go while accounting for peak period reliability issues.

        You want layovers in the evening. Not the PM peak, but after that. During peak, the buses and trains run often — so laying over isn’t an issue. But during the evening, when trains run every 10 to 15 minutes, and buses don’t run very often, you want the bus there, ready to pick people up (i. e. laying over).

        During the day and evening you can arrange the schedule properly and have a long dwell-time (~2 min or whatever) to ensure nobody is missing a connection.

        What? How is that not a layover? Is the bus sitting there, with the engine going, is that the difference? Are they supposed to crawl through the street, slowly moving whenever the cop arrives, like a driver at SeaTac? Sorry — if they are stopped for a significant amount of time, that constitutes a layover.

        Look, you can’t possible time it perfectly. It is highly unlikely you can time it just right, unless you dead head to Mercer Island, which is a crazy idea. Either you wait at Mercer Island (which is pretty easy to do) or you live with the fact that a lot of passengers will simply miss their connection, and wait for up to 15 minutes. Waiting = laying over.

  3. $10MM is not a lot of money in the ST2 context, but I think it sets a bad precedent.

    In the end, Eastlink will be built, and Mercer Island wont enjoy all of the the benefits of rail with its citizens because of their various anti-transit agreements. So, everyone wins but them. Sounds fair.

    1. Jake i don’t think this is “Bad Precedent”. This show that a large agency isn’t going to steam roll a small rich community but is going to work with local community to address concerns and expiate the process.

      1. It is basically extortion. The $10M was basically to make the problem for ST go away. These are the same people who were so concerned about an $800k celebration of U-Link opening. I’m more bothered by this spend and Mercer Islanders not getting anything of substance for it.

      2. Mercer Island was also in a fairly unique position having the 1976 MOA and 2004 amendment affecting things. It’s hardly extortion, simply the result of negotiations to avoid potentially negative outcomes in court.

      3. -negotiations to avoid potentially negative outcomes in court

        Sounds like extortion to me.

      4. The 1976 MOA didn’t affect anything. It was clear: MI’s access was temporary.
        ST’s settlement isn’t about avoiding a negative court ruling.
        Mercer Island’s legal game plan was simply delay, delay, delay, by every means possible.

        ST paid 10 million to stop the delays.

      5. negotiations to avoid potentially negative outcomes in court

        Sounds like extortion to me.

        Yeah, pretty close to textbook extortion.

        Seems like they didn’t get *that* much, though. The fight to limit the number of off-islanders with access to their precious town center continues to enrage, but this could have turned out worse.

    2. It’s actually less than what I expected. I figured they would settle at somewhere around 20 million (if memory serves, I can’t find the link). The problem is that ST screwed up the FEIS, as explained here: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2017/02/03/wsdot-no-special-access-for-mercer-island-sovs/#comment-768719. This put ST in a vulnerable position. They could go back and write a supplemental one, but that would delay things. Eventually Mercer Island would be in the same position — they would lose their ramp. But even though ST knew they would win, they didn’t want to play chicken with Mercer Island — not over 10 million, as I said way back when (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2017/02/13/mercer-island-to-sue-sound-transit-wsdot/#comment-769521).

      I don’t think this sets much of a precedent, or if it does, all it says is you better get the FEIS right the first time.

  4. I don’t really like the precedent. Mercer Island spent no effort in preparing for what they knew was coming, then screamed that they weren’t prepared and ST threw some money at them for it. So now I guess we can expect each municipality to do nothing and then act surprised when light rail comes to town, and expect add’l mitigation money from ST. I know $10M is small, but I still hope it comes out of the East Link budget, specifically.

    1. It also turns out WSDOT (and Sound Transit) knew back in 2013 that FHWA would not allow SOV access via the Island Crest Way ramps (to the new R8A HOV lane), but neglected to tell Mercer Island this for 2 years. WSDOT also mostly failed to engage in negotiations at all. So while the City was slow on the uptake and made some poor decisions along the way, so did WSDOT and Sound Transit. There was plenty of bad decision-making on the part of all parties involved.

    2. This is disappointing on so many levels. For example this is money they have taken from East Tacoma and bestowed to Mercer island whining. And only one of those places gets any transit service.

      1. I believe this comes out of East Link’s contingency budget. At most, it’s credited to East King. So Tacoma should be untouched by this decision.

  5. Some good things here. Having MI officially acknowledge the 1976 agreement is dead is an important political win.

    The MI station design included some clever solutions for bus-rail integration; hopefully the $5.4M for traffic and bike/ped safety can be applied for that project or other mini-projects related to station access.

    I’m intrigued by the “last mile” pilot projects. I, and others in the commentariat, have observed that MI is a perfect location to trial driverless shuttles (rather than fixed routes), given it has low density, low congestion (outside of I90), and a clear shuttle hub at the rail station. Something clever might yet come out of that project that both fits MI’s suburban paradigm and still boosts transit ridership.

    1. AJ, I don’t think it means MI is officially acknowledges that the 1976 agreement is dead, it just means they are dropping their current lawsuit against ST. It sounds like they are still hoping to pursue a congressional remedy for their loss of SOV access to the Island Crest Way on-ramp to westbound I-90, which could also include (because it is technically not the same thing as) SOV access to the HOV lane all the way to Seattle. The less-intrusive solution of allowing the *ramp* to be general purpose but the HOV lane to no longer allow SOVs would solve Mercer Island’s concern about 1,000+ SOVs winding through the local streets to get to the westbound on-ramps at either 76th or W. Mercer Way. That “SOV entering an HOV lane from the left” problem was apparently cited by FHWA as the primary reason for the SOV ban, yet it’s allowed at the southern exit from the I-5 Express Lanes when they operate southbound (approximately under Yesler Way). I keep wondering, but haven’t asked anyone at WSDOT (or FHWA, but they don’t answer regular citizens), why the double standard?

      Another factor in favor of the “MI as testbed for driverless shuttles” idea is the parking shortage at the rail station.

      1. Yes, I think MI still enjoys the 1976 agreement protections against future highway changes – they are accepting that the obligations under that agreement are fulfilled with respect to the current set of revisions.

        Re the I-5 express lanes, Mercer did bring that up in their last exchange of letters with FHWA. It’s grandfathered because it was built before 1991. It will have to go away too if that highway gets rebuilt.

  6. THIS is an example of why we can’t have elected ST board members. In this instance, it would have resulted in some members of the ST board advocating for anti-transit interests and sabotaging ST.

      1. I’ve seen a lot of arguments the past few years to repeal the 17th amendment…

  7. Not a great result for anyone except MI, but at least it’s over.

  8. I’ve been out of the loop for a while but what’s the deal with the bus-rail intercept? If they only allow stops on N Mercer and not 80th, then aren’t riders forced to make an extra walk around to the station entrance? And how would buses coming in from WB I-90 turn around if not allowed to use SE 27th? That’s the only clockwise loop you can make if stops are restricted to the south side of N Mercer.

  9. Absurd. I’ve come around to think that Sound transit needs more oversight and accountability given the amount of public money they’ve been entrusted with.

    Which is hard for me to say. But if I extract myself from Seattle and look for the outside it’s quite clear.

    1. What accountability and oversight is Sound Transit missing with this settlement?

      Legally, yes, Sound Transit likely would have won in court. The problem is politically. Let’s look at the outcomes I believe to be likely had Sound Transit not settled:

      1) Sound Transit pounds Mercer Island into the ground and does so quickly. East Link’s construction start is delayed by three weeks (basically, to get the first round of court fights over and Mercer Island caves and doesn’t appeal). Pyrrhic victory: Sound Transit won in court but now the elected officials who serve on Sound Transit’s board are in the position of having beat up on a colleague and Mercer Island’s council–with the encouragement of its citizens who are pissed at having lost–can do all sorts of small, petty things to drag this out even longer without technically blocking anything.

      2) Sound Transit wins after many courtroom battles, appeals, and months. East Link’s construction is delayed by many months, maybe even two years. The whole time, the Seattle Times and various TV news crews run pictures every couple of weeks of the HOV lanes being used, the express lanes being completely empty, and the occasional pile of dirt or piece of construction equipment sitting idle. Sound Transit gets the rap for the delay because “Link is Sound Transit’s project so the delays are obviously Sound Transit’s fault.” Every month that goes by puts more pressure on Sound Transit to “just settle and get it over with and get the shovels going” and every month that Sound Transit doesn’t settle makes Sound Transit look petty in the eyes of people who aren’t ardent transit supporters.

      3) Sound Transit loses. The court decides that the agreement requires that Sound Transit make Mercer Island whole and leave preferential access in place and all the other things. Now Sound Transit looks like a bully for not seeing the light up front and is: a) out potentially many millions of dollars and many, many months of delay to completely reconfigure IH-90’s lanes for this preferential access; or b) out many months of delay and many millions of dollars to reconfigure how East Link will travel across the express lanes; or c) completely screwed for building out East Link because there’s no way to do what Mercer Island wants and/or the court ordered.

      Settling for $10mm grinds my gears but isn’t an unreasonable decision.

  10. During NPR coverage this morning, they run a sound bite from the MI spokesperson who basically says, “This money is good for people who can’t drive to the station.” I interpreted that as the city staff firmly understands parking garages won’t scale as a solution for station access.

    I’m OK with some money for P&Rs b/c MI is going to pick up half the bill, and it’ll hopefully be incorporated into some TOD construction. In a neighborhood like MI, P&Rs is still a viable station access solution for weekends and evenings, IMO

    1. ya, and they worked out an interesting dodge here.

      MI wanted parking spots that were 100% reserved for MI residents only, but ST didn’t want to use regional dollars just to support MI only.

      So ST puts in 49% of the cost of a parking spot and MI puts in the remaining 51%. Because MI is the majority “owner” MI gets to manage the facility (I assume at their nickle) and will surely reserve them for MI use only.

      1. That’s a good catch. I see Judy Clibburn making a similar observation this morning. “Flexibility with how it is regulated” is the term in the MI Reporter.

        Mercer Island likes to cite how 54% of MI P&R users are cars registered off-island. What they focus on less is that 19% of P&R users in the same survey are within a mile, mostly in the town center just a few blocks from the P&R. Some people just hate to walk, it seems. Not clear to me why they shouldn’t invest their resources in having more of those people leave the car at home and walk to the station.

      2. I don’t recall where in my voter pamphlet it said sound transit would pay $22k per space to provide reserved parking for Mercer island residents.

      3. Egad. I would very much object to Islander only parking unless that parking is 100% paid for by MI

      4. “I don’t recall where in my voter pamphlet it said sound transit would pay $22k per space to provide reserved parking for Mercer island residents.”

        It’s part of the mitigation ST has to negotiate with all the cities it goes through.

      5. @Dan,

        The MI mayor (or whatever he is called) came right out and said it in one of his released statements. His words, not ST’s. But it all fits together.

  11. Unless I-90 is tolled, South Bellevue will not be a good intercept for I-90 bus routes in 2023. The routes will be in the center HOV lane at 142nd Place SE. To reach Bellevue Way SE, they would have to weave through the congested general purpose lanes. The stretch of I-90 also has the I-405 interchange. The MI Link station has always been the best intercept. East I-90 travel times will be better at MI. Hope ST cut a good deal. For MI transit riders, East Link will connect them with Seattle, Bellevue, and Overlake. Perhaps a bus route could connect them with Eastgate and its network and BC.

    1. That weave is actually quite easy because of where the congestion occurs on I90. I do it frequently myself, and I think there is ample space for a bus. There is a big backup between Eastgate and 405 for those getting onto 405, which the bus will bypass on the HOV lanes. Then, I90 is always open between 405 and MI, due to the congestion around Eastgate and 405 feeding from only a single lane that enters at the Bellevue Wy exit, leaving it open for buses to merge across traffic.

      The only way there is congestion where the buses need to merge (assuming no accidents, etc.) is if WSDOT fixes the congestion around Eastgate, which would require either adding lanes to 90 or adding additional exit lanes onto 405.

      1. ST555 does not do the “weave.” I’m curious if that’s because Metro isn’t comfortable with the weave, or simply because they wanted to serve Factoria with that route.

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