Light rail on the wrong highway
April 28, 2010 · Updated 10:07 AM
Thank you, Clark Powell, for your letter (Reporter, April 14) drawing attention to the fact that Mercer Islanders will not be the principal beneficiaries of the East Link Light Rail project, but perhaps the victims. According to Mr. Powell, the plan will “eliminate the I-90 express lanes, restripe a safe I-90 into a dangerous freeway, create a chokepoint at the light rail stop on Mercer Island and not reduce any Mercer Island street traffic.”
As a matter of lengthy observation, I can testify that drivers from the east, in greater numbers, will exit I-90 and flock to downtown Mercer Island to catch light rail to Seattle, leaving their cars for Mercer Island to deal with.
Over the years, Anne Mack and I have had the experience of not being able to park in the old Park and Ride lot here when we were going to the King County Courthouse at 8:15 a.m. on matters pertaining to our organization, PLAN (Preserve Land for Agriculture Now). By that time, the lot was always filled and overflowing onto neighborhood streets. Several times I asked the City Council if some portion of the lot could be designated for Mercer Island drivers, but the answer was always that the taxpayers paid for Metro and no restrictions were permitted. (Well, Mercer Islanders pay those taxes also, and not all of us can afford the high parking charges in Seattle.)
In the extensive planning for East Link Light Rail, no one seems to have given any attention to the Island’s major problem of accommodating the future greater number of cars being left as close to Seattle as possible. Until a few years ago, the business district had a lot of vacant land, and during the five years that I was on the Design Commission, we discussed a public parking garage, which would include some useful services as well as cars — a child care center, newsstand, etc. — but the city never showed any interest, and now the area adjacent to I-90 is built up.
I believe that safe, convenient local parking, not unlike clean water, power, sewer, garbage collection, etc., is a civic benefit, and cities should plan for it. Our local bus service has been totally inadequate, but the city doesn’t seem to mind.
I also agree with Mr. Powell that light rail should be placed on the 520 bridge. The local regional planners seemed to be blind to the difficulties which I-90 presents (our only route on and off our small Island) in regard to being a major transportation hub. Most troubling, since I-90 was built on Washington state’s major fault before the fault was analyzed in any depth, now that it is recognized as such, why add another very difficult and expensive “improvement” to complicate matters? All the recent earthquakes around the world should give us pause. From outer space, Earth looks like a very benign blue planet, but it conceals an extremely turbulent core.