City Seeks Fair Treatment Defending Itself Against Sound Transit and WSDOT Lawsuits
Apr 15, 2017 - On April 7 and April 13, King County Superior Court Judge Andrus heard oral arguments on Sound Transit’s and WSDOT’s lawsuits challenging the City’s authority to address the adverse parking, traffic, and safety impacts caused by Sound Transit’s East Link Project. The City’s position was that it had authority with respect to its issuance and review of Sound Transit’s shoreline development permit and light rail station building permit.
On April 7, Judge Andrus ruled that State law does not allow the City to address adverse impacts that occur outside the shoreline jurisdiction using the shoreline permit, and prohibited the City from rescinding the shoreline permit on that basis. The City intends to appeal the decision to the Washington State Supreme Court. Judge Andrus has not yet ruled on issues involving the pending building permit and is instead waiting to see what the City Council does at its Monday, April 17 evening meeting on related issues.
On a parallel track with litigation, the City is actively pursuing the possibility of a negotiated solution. “Litigation is expensive and time-consuming, and the outcome is uncertain,” noted Mercer Island City Manager Julie Underwood. The City is pleased by the recent formation of a small negotiating team composed of three Sound Transit Board members and three City Councilmembers, who have tentatively planned to meet on April 24.
Earlier this month, Sound Transit and WSDOT published two important documents regarding the East Link Extension project. The agencies jointly released a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Addendum that updates the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) originally issued in July 2011. And WSDOT released the “I-90 and Mercer Island Mobility Study.”
Together, these documents conclude that “prohibit[ing] SOVs from using the R8A HOV lanes between
Seattle and Mercer Island” will cause “[n]o new probable significant adverse environmental impacts” and “no loss of mobility to or from Mercer Island.” They form the basis for Sound Transit’s and WSDOT’s conclusions that only minimal mitigation measures are required. The City disagrees with these conclusions and will prepare its own Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on a fast-track basis. The City welcomes public comment on these documents, which can be submitted online here: www.mercergov.org/Rail_Comments
“Mercer Island residents have only one route on and off the island: I-90. The change in the project reduces Town Center onramps from three to just one for single occupant vehicles (SOV’s), and eliminates the SOV onramp for our only four-lane arterial road. This is a significant alteration to the project that definitely will impact the island,” states Underwood. “This would be similar to eliminating the SOV onramps from Mercer Street to I-5 in Seattle or NE 8th Street to I-405 in Bellevue.”
Underwood cautions that the I-90 center roadway is still likely to close in early June of this year, and the City will be working with residents to make sure they have the information needed to be prepared for significant changes in their morning commute.
The City Manager will be providing an I-90 update to the City Council on Monday evening, April 17.
(For more information contact City Communication Manager Ross Freeman at: email@example.com)