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Vehicle Access to I-90 During and After Light Rail Construction

Aug 9, 2016 - Since 2005, the State of Washington, Sound Transit, Mercer Island and other local governments have been in agreement on what will happen on I-90 once the Center Roadway Express Lanes are closed for construction and operation of light rail.   Specifically, Mercer Island traffic should have the same access to the new I-90 R8A lanes being added in each direction as that traffic has today to the existing Center Roadway.  Earlier this year, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) raised legal concerns to this agreed solution.  As a result, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) asked for clarification. Mercer Island weighed in with FHWA directly by letter dated May 31, 2016 and a trip to Washington, D.C.
On August 5, 2016 WSDOT and Mercer Island received a response that repeated the FHWA’s legal concerns.  The letter, however, acknowledged the “unique importance of I-90 to Mercer Island as its sole access on and off the island.”   The FHWA went on to state that it was “eager to find a solution.”
The City of Mercer Island believes a favorable solution to this issue is critical to maintaining mobility of travel to and from the Island following the permanent closure of the I-90 Center Roadway Express Lanes for construction and operation of the East Link Light Rail Transit Project.   While the City disagrees with the FHWA letter and will respond accordingly, it shares FHWA’s desire to find a solution.
In response to the FHWA letter, the City is moving forward, in conjunction with its partners—elected representatives, Sound Transit and WSDOT—to meet with the FHWA and develop possible solutions to this important issue.  These meetings are part of an ongoing process devoted to identifying solutions that allow for the timely development of light rail, while at the same time protecting mobility and access to I-90 for Mercer Island.
"While we disagree with this statement from FHWA, which contradicts our longstanding regional agreements, this is only one step in a long process,” said Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Bassett. “We are committed to reaching solutions that will maximize Mercer Island mobility and access to I-90.”
Ever since the proposal to convert the Center Roadway Express Lanes of I-90 from vehicle traffic to a light rail corridor, the City of Mercer Island has advocated for equitable treatment of its citizens and received the support of the State and local and regional governments for its position. Mercer Island’s commitment remains unchanged.

The City intends to simultaneously pursue efforts to work with the FHWA, as well as explore other options to protect its interests such as a reexamination of the environmental record and a review of other Island mobility issues.
For more information about access to I-90, the R8A project, and copies of historical agreements and correspondence, visit
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