I-90 lawsuit hearings set for April as East Link sees cost overruns

At the March 20 Mercer Island City Council meeting, City Manager Julie Underwood delivered an update on the city’s litigation regarding light rail mitigation and future access to Interstate 90.

Three separate lawsuits are underway and various key dates have been rescheduled several times in the past few weeks.

One is Mercer Island’s lawsuit against the Washington State Department of Transportation and Sound Transit over breach of contract and other claims. The discovery process is underway, but no hearing date has been set.

Another is Sound Transit’s counter-claim asking the court to compel the city to withdraw the suspension of the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit and to process the building permit. After the March 10 hearing in King County Superior Court, and upon Sound Transit’s commitment to further environmental analysis, the city withdrew the suspension on March 17. A follow-up hearing scheduled for March 31 was moved to 10 a.m. on April 7.

The third is Sound Transit and WSDOT’s writ to strike down the city’s land use moratoria. This hearing is currently set for 2 p.m. on April 13 in King County Superior Court.

On March 8, Underwood and city staff met with a small group of citizen “advisors.” This first meeting included the following residents: Tom Acker, Steve Marshall, Alison Stovall, Joe Barer, Bob Olson, Peter Struck, Hilary Benson, Craig Olson, Carv Zwingle and Tiffin Goodman.

Also at the March 20 meeting, Will Knedlik of “Interstate 90 Users Coalition” addressed the council, saying that he contested the original Environmental Impact Statement for East Link and that he had concerns about the effect of light rail structures on the life of the I-90 bridge.

Sound Transit recently said it would re-engineer the bridge span through “post-tensioning.” Despite several technical challenges, Sound Transit is close to winning final approval by state and federal governments to begin track work on I-90 this summer. The I-90 center roadway is scheduled to close in June, though Mercer Island’s lawsuit seeks to delay the closure until loss of mobility mitigation is identified.

On March 23, the Sound Transit board was scheduled to approve a $225 million contract increase with construction group Kiewit-Hoffman, exceeding the agency’s engineering estimate of $486 million. This leaves $147 million left in reserves for the Eastside line and a remaining budget of $20 million for other construction in the I-90 corridor, according to a Sound Transit staff report to the board’s capital committee.

The contract increase includes a 7 percent contingency for Kiewit if needed. To see the contract amendment, go to www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/Motion%20M2017-30.pdf.

East Link, approved by voters in 2008 as part of the Sound Transit 2 measure, is expected to cost $3.7 billion and open for service in 2023.

The city’s FAQ page (www.mercergov.org/Rail-FAQ) has been updated with the latest information.

Also on March 23, the Sound Transit board agreed to appoint up to three board members to meet with the Mercer Island elected officials to resume negotiations.