Mercer Island bus-rail connection still in flux

Transit integration at Mercer Island continues to move forward, but rough water appears to be on the horizon. When we last checked in, Sound Transit and King County Metro had presented three infrastructure options, the Limited, Improved, and Optimal Configurations, which could facilitate 12, 16, or 20 buses per hour, respectively. Since that time, the Mercer Island City Council has identified additional concerns and discussed the Interchange again with City staff on July 16, 2019.

Mercer Island Station construction, June 2019. Sound Transit photo, via Facebook.

One of the significant factors is that King County Metro was not a party to the Settlement Agreement that ended litigation and other Link-related disputes between Sound Transit and the City. However Metro’s “concurrence” is required for the Transit Interchange, and the Settlement Agreement allows for changes to the Transit Interchange to achieve that concurrence. As previously reported, Metro identified issues with the Transit Interchange as described in the Settlement Agreement and proposed changes that would allow Metro to concur. Notably, new information presented to the City Council included a letter from King County Metro to Sound Transit (page 16 of the linked PDF) stating that Metro cannot concur with the Limited Configuration (e.g. the configuration explicitly described by the Settlement Agreement, with a capacity of up to 12 buses per hour) because that configuration does not allow appropriate layovers and pickup/dropoff locations.

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Mercer Island Station Open House Report

Screenshot 2013-06-07 at 6.33.04 PM

Thursday evening Sound Transit staff conducted an open house at the Mercer Island Community Center focused on the East Link light rail extension. Approximately 80 to 90 people, including staff, trickled in throughout the evening, which included the brief opening, presentation, and Q&A sessions. The presentation centered on the design of Mercer Island Station in particular, approximately 30% complete. Essentially, the alignment of the track is completely determined at this point; several Sound Transit engineers at the open house intimated that this was the crucial first step of the design.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of this, but we’re at a point where we have a good idea of what’ll work correctly,” said David Hewitt, founder of Hewitt, an urban planning and design firm handling the design of Mercer Island Station East Link.

As one resident put it: “They’ve done their homework.”

The Mercer Island Station (a working name) will squat firmly in the center roadway of I-90, with light rail running on either side. From 77th and 80th Avenues SE, riders can stroll into the western and eastern entrances of the station, respectively. Detailed images and layouts are available here.


Each entrance will consist of a plaza with ticketing and seating areas, leading to an escalator, a stair, and an elevator, with surrounding lightweight steel and glass structures. The east entrance will also have a bicycle cage for secure storage. Once a rider descends 25 feet onto the central platform, she has roughly 380 feet of open space in which to frolic, with a central canopy serving as weather cover. Sound-dampening walls specially designed to absorb I-90’s acoustic assault will outline the tracks.

“It’s fairly symmetrical in nature,” Hewitt said. “The scale of the station is a very pleasant one we think.”


More after the jump.

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