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Prop. 1 vote means transit to Island by 2020

Warning signs at street crossings are now in south Seattle. - Chad Coleman/ Mercer Island Reporter
Warning signs at street crossings are now in south Seattle.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/ Mercer Island Reporter

A light rail station is coming to Mercer Island. With the passage of Sound Transit’s Prop. 1 by 58 percent of the vote, the funds will be raised to add a cross-lake route from Seattle to Bellevue with a stop on Mercer Island.

In addition to adding 36 new miles of light rail, the $17 billion measure will also add rapid bus transit routes on the Eastside and carpool lanes on the outer roadway of I-90. In addition, a route across Lake Washington in the center roadway of I-90 would go from downtown Seattle onto Mercer Island and end at Overlake Hospital by 2020.

Prior to giving up the center roadway to mass transit, however, an agreement states that Sound Transit must complete its three-phase project to add carpool lanes on the outer roadway. The first phase was just completed this fall. The second and third phases have not yet been determined.

Sound Transit’s proposal to bring light rail to the Eastside and across I-90 with a stop on Mercer Island also received strong support.

Island resident and state Senator-elect Fred Jarrett said he was glad light rail was approved and Initiative-985 — the carpool lane initiative — failed.

“I am pleased at those two votes,” said Jarrett. “It’s nice to get the decision behind us that we are going to do transit. Of course, we have a lot of work now to do it right, but have the ability to move on instead of arguing roads versus transit.”

Approval of I-985 would have opened carpool lanes to single-occupancy vehicles outside of rush hour and divert general fund dollars to transportation projects. Jarrett complemented statewide voters for rejecting it.

“That was one of the great votes so far this century,” said Jarrett, a former Island mayor and City Councilmember. “That was a very, very bad initiative, and we got it rejected without having to spend millions [of dollars]. That should give us great faith in our democracy and our voters.”

City leaders from Mercer Island have been working with Sound Transit to develop plans for a station connected to the Town Center’s proposed public plaza where 78th Avenue S.E. ends at the Sunset Highway. While initial designs showed station entrances over the highway along 80th and 77th Avenues, the city has asked Sound Transit to look into the possibility of a pedestrian overpass from the public plaza to the station.

Mayor Jim Pearman said the city is looking forward to continuing its work with Sound Transit during the planning of an Island station and possibly integrating it into the Town Center.

While last year’s Sound Transit and a Regional Transportation Improvement District, or RTID, failed with a similar package that included several highway improvement projects on the ballot last year, Islanders were the only city residents in King County to vote in favor of the measure.

Bruce Gray, a spokesperson for Sound Transit, said that proposed routes from Mercer Island into Bellevue will be published in early December, kicking off the public comment period about choosing one of the suggested alternatives. In the meantime, he said staffers are moving forward now that they have voters’ support.

“There’s an incredible amount of work ahead of us, and we are going at it right now,” said Gray.

For more information, go to www.soundtransit.org.

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