Mercer Island and Sound Transit resume negotiations on some issues of concern

At the March 23 Sound Transit board meeting, board member and King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci introduced a motion, supported by the board, that would appoint up to three board members to meet with Mercer Island elected officials to discuss some issues of concern regarding the East Link project.

Mercer Island Deputy Mayor Debbie Bertlin testified in support of resuming negotiations, reiterating the city’s “strong preference for negotiating a solution with Sound Transit.”

The Mercer Island City Council voted unanimously in February to file a civil suit against Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation to ensure an effective mitigation plan was in place prior to the scheduled start of light rail construction and closure of the Interstate 90 center roadway in June 2017.

“The council believes that being at the table is preferable to litigating. Nevertheless, the city’s lawsuit, which continues to move forward, is intended to provide another way for us to protect ourselves from threats to safety and mobility,” Mayor Bruce Bassett said in a city statement.

“We’re hopeful that resuming talks opens a path to new negotiating opportunities which results in a win-win for the Island and the region,” Bertlin stated.

The council’s representatives for these discussions include Bertlin and Councilmembers Dan Grausz and Jeff Sanderson.

According to the motion, these meetings will not address “the equitable access issue identified in the 1976 Memorandum” or “loss of mobility issues and the potential mitigation measures,” but will focus on “bus/rail integration, permitting, dedicated staff funding, coordination with other construction projects, mitigation identified in the East Link Record of Decision, access, including bike and pedestrian access, emergency response training, and other issues that may be identified as within the exclusive authority of Sound Transit and the City of Mercer Island to resolve.”

“Our demands for [SOV] access will not be negotiated with Sound Transit,” Grausz wrote in an email update to Islanders. “We are not abandoning those issues by any means but they are not part of these specific negotiations.”

Grausz also wrote that the council will consider whether to temporarily raise taxes in order to fund its legal efforts later this month.