Court dismisses lawsuit seeking to stop East Link light rail project
March 9, 2012 · 12:29 PM
Kittitas County judge issues summary judgment in Kemper Freeman case
A Kittitas County Superior Court Judge issued a summary judgment in the lawsuit by Kemper Freeman seeking to stop the East Link light rail project.
The ruling confirms the legality of the work now underway to extend light rail across the I-90 center lanes to serve to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond. Mercer Island residents, Former State Sen. Jim Horn and Sara Rindlaub were also part of the suit.
The group that brought the suit contends that the 18th Amendment to the Washington State Constitution prohibits state highways — built using gas tax revenues — from being converted to “non-highway purposes.” The plaintiffs say that light rail is a “non-highway purpose.” Such a highway can be converted to another purpose only if it is declared “surplus.”
With Sound Transit funding, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is nearing completion of the second of three phases to prepare for light rail construction by adding new HOV lanes, ramps, and safety improvements across Lake Washington on I-90. Before the reversible center lanes are closed for light rail, these new lanes will provide 24-hour capacity for carpools and buses both eastbound and westbound, maintaining the current number of general purpose and HOV lanes and remedying the current lack of HOV capacity in the off-peak direction.
The court held that WSDOT had the authority to lease the I-90 center lanes to Sound Transit for light rail, rejecting the argument that the lease violates the 18th Amendment of the Washington State Constitution because Sound Transit is paying adequate compensation for the lanes.
The court affirmed that the East Link light rail project, approved by voters in 2008, is consistent with plans and agreements that have been in place since before the bridge was built. The ruling cites the 1978 federal action approving construction of the I-90 floating bridge, which contained an express condition that “public transportation shall permanently have first priority in the use of the center lanes.”
In 1976, a memorandum of agreement for I-90 was signed by the cities of Seattle, Bellevue and Mercer Island, King County Metro Transit and the State Highway Commission. It directed that bridge design and construction accommodate future conversion to rail and committed the two-lane center roadway for that purpose.
Freeman filed the lawsuit in Kittitas County following a Washington State Supreme Court ruling against him in 2011.
For more go to Reporter stories at http://www.mi-reporter.com/news/122953708.html and http://www.mi-reporter.com/news/120369259.html.