Mercer Island and Sound Transit finalize settlement agreement

At its Oct. 17 meeting, the Mercer Island City Council unanimously voted to finalize its acceptance of a package of mitigation measures first offered in May 2017 by Sound Transit and valued at just over $10 million.

The financial settlement terms remain unchanged from the original proposal and are intended to offset the impacts of light rail construction and operation, and also to partially compensate for permanent impacts to local traffic patterns, including the loss of access to westbound I-90 from the Island’s only four-lane arterial, Island Crest Way, according to a city news release.

The settlement does not address “access to I-90 for single occupant vehicles (SOVs) at the Island Crest Way westbound on-ramp, as this is a federal issue and outside of the city’s, Sound Transit’s, and WSDOT’s legal authority,” according to the council’s agenda bill, but does include funds for key community-identified priorities, including traffic and safety enhancements, last mile solutions, parking and bus-rail integration.

Sound Transit will provide $5.3 million to address vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian access issues resulting from the closure of the I-90 center roadway and fund “last/first-mile solutions” that enable Islanders to access transit without driving, and $4.6 million for about 100 additional commuter parking stalls during the East Link construction period (2017-2023) and construction of new commuter parking for residents.

The council also required that no bus facility will be built on 80th Avenue Southeast. Instead, all pick-up and drop-offs will continue to occur on North Mercer Way, as they do today, and bus volumes will be comparable to today. The city received a letter from King County Metro in support of the city’s negotiated terms.

The settlement also includes $50,000 towards the Aubrey Davis Park Master Plan preparation and implementation and up to $23,100 for city police and fire personnel training in response to an East Link safety issue.

With this formal and binding approval from both parties, the city also agreed to dismiss its pending legal actions, filed earlier this year, asserting that legally-binding commitments regarding mobility were made under a 1976 Agreement and subsequent 2004 Amendment to ensure public safety and the continued mobility of drivers to and from Mercer Island.

The Sound Transit Board already issued its final approval of the agreement at its June 22 meeting (see Motion No. M2017-96).

Sound Transit commenced construction of the East Link light rail line linking Seattle and the Eastside across Mercer Island on June 3, when the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) closed the I-90 center roadway permanently to vehicles.

Since June, the city has been exploring various potential pathways to address the community’s priorities, and a tentative Nov. 7 study session before the council will present the latest findings on first and last-mile solutions, commuter parking at the South Luther Burbank parking lot and other topics.

The city is also continuing to collect local traffic performance statistics in order to make data-driven decisions about traffic mitigation measures to ease congestion and improve safety. The city’s traffic planning work is targeted for completion by spring 2018.

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