The city of Mercer Island received a formal letter from Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Secretary Roger Millar on Feb. 1 detailing his decision on short-term access options to Interstate 90 once light rail construction commences in June 2017.
The letter identified no short-term solutions to local traffic impacts expected during light rail construction, no adjustments in schedule and commits WSDOT only to further studies in the long-term.
The City Council intends to hold a full discussion of next steps, including potential legislative fixes or the possibility of litigation, and had planned to devote its entire Feb. 6 meeting to the topic. That meeting was rescheduled to Feb. 8 due to inclement weather on Monday, then postponed to Feb. 13.
Congressman Adam Smith stepped in to assist the city by arranging a meeting with Gov. Jay Inslee, which may inform Council’s next steps in its ongoing I-90/Light Rail negotiating strategy. This necessitated the second rescheduling.
The solutions proposed by WSDOT include building a new on-ramp connecting Island Crest Way to the right side of westbound I-90, converting some portion of the I-90 HOV lanes to high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes or converting the “R8A” HOV lanes to general purpose lanes between Island Crest Way and Seattle.
“By issuing the letter, WSDOT has made it clear that it intends to ignore access agreements dating back to 1976,” Mayor Bruce Bassett said in a statement. “Instead, WSDOT is condoning the diversion of morning commuter traffic headed to I-90 away from the major arterial designed for such a purpose (Island Crest Way), and onto much smaller secondary streets with no sidewalks or center lines, poor sight lines, and which pass several busy school crossings.”
The letter stems from a meeting hosted by state Rep. Judy Clibborn in Olympia in January, at which top officials representing all parties in the I-90 access negotiations presented data on the expected impacts of changes to traffic flow at the north end of the Island.
“The city also continues to work with the governor’s office, Rep. Adam Smith and King County Executive Dow Constantine to find a satisfactory solution,” according to a Feb. 2 news release from the city.
At the meeting, the city advocated on behalf of the community and insisted that WSDOT honor historic agreements guaranteeing Single Occupant Vehicle (SOV) access to westbound I-90 via Island Crest Way, as well as future SOV use of the new R8A lanes.
The public is invited to submit questions in advance via the city’s comment form: www.mercergov.org/Rail_Comments, or via email, and council will try to address as many as possible in the time allotted.
Council meetings can be viewed live on MI-TV Ch 21 or online at www.mercergov.org/CouncilMeetings.