Sound Transit meeting leaves many questions

Sound Transit held another open house last Thursday, July 10 at the Mercer Island Community and Events Center to show Islanders what the design for the light rail station in the center lanes of I-90 looks like so far.

The first thing the casual observer might see is the addition of three tall “air handler” stacks on the roofs of the “head houses” at either end of the football field-length station. These were not shown in previous renderings. The head houses are the points of entry where commuters descend into the center lanes to board the trains. The structures will not be heated or cooled, but instead will rely on air circulating through the stacks. In the renderings for the station, the stacks are painted red. After hearing some doubt about the color, Sound Transit officials said they could be painted grey instead.

Despite the unseasonable warm temperatures that evening, the meeting was attended by about 70 Islanders along with dozens of Sound Transit officials, a handful of Washington State Department of Transportation officials and King County Metro bus planners. After an hour discussion on the design of the station  and the process for the selection of art for the stations, the discussion turned to access to the station - and how the station will be integrated into other transportation networks: the buses that will drop commuters off at the facility and how Islanders will travel to the station when local bus routes will be virtually eliminated by year’s end.

Sound Transit has undertaken a broader transit integration study in partnership with the city and King County Metro to determine how bus service will operate alongside East Link. Because light rail will overlap with several existing routes, the hope is to look at bus routes and schedules to reduce travel times and congestion. The study reviewed several scenarios for funneling bus traffic, two of which included the construction of roundabouts. In one, a roundabout would be erected between Sunset Way and the I-90 EB off-ramp, along 77th Ave. S.E. Another ramp, along 77th Ave. S.E. Another considered a roundabout west of the Park-and-Ride at the intersection of North Mercer Way and 77th Ave. S.E. A third option would direct traffic clockwise across several city blocks: along North Mercer Way, down 80th Ave. S.E., across S.E. 27th St. and up 77th Ave. S.E.

The North Mercer Way roundabout would displace two homes and cost between $8 and $11 million. The Sunset Way roundabout would impact 0.6 acres of park space and cost between $13 and $18 million. But all options would result in the same or fewer bus trips on the Island.

Buses now stop on the Island 350 times a day. An additional 150 buses travel across I-90 but don’t stop in the city. The alterations wouldn’t add more daily buses but would mean busier peak hours.

Sound Transit representatives will host another drop-in session today from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at Tully’s Coffee.


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