Tag Archives: I-90

How Does Mercer Island Commute?

Just saw an excellent post in the Seattle Bike Blog on how Seattle commutes. Which got me wondering how Mercer Island commutes.

I went to the Census American communities Survey, just released for 2012, and looked at Mercer Island versus Seattle, Bellevue and all of King County:


In only a few minutes with the data a few things popped out:

1.Islanders drive more than the rest of King County.

2. Our mean commute is lower than Seattle, Bellevue or all of King County, probably because of how central the Island is.

3. Almost 10% of Islanders work from home, quite a bit higher than the rest of the county.

4. Islanders take public transportation at a much lower rate than the rest of the county. I think we’d take it more if we could get to the Park & Ride more easily or find parking there. These days, it’s parked up before 8 am, causing a stressful morning for anyone planning to get a spot.

My husband and I have tried many of these methods– driving alone, carpooling, the bus, and biking– at different times. Basically anything other than walking. One of the nice things about Mercer Island is you can get almost anywhere, fast.

I wonder how these numbers will change when the Express Lanes give way to Light Rail. One would expect a dramatic drop in driving alone and a rise in public transportation. We’ll see in about 10 years.

Three Images of Mercer Island

One small island in Lake Washington with many different moods:

Under the bridge: andrewasmith on Flickr

Over the bridge: brettbigb on Flickr

And at sunset looking back to Seattle: Joselw on Flickr

I-90 Closed Tonight, Tomorrow Night, Thursday Night

for some fancy new signs. More from the City.

What’s That Barge Off I-90 Doing?

It’s the WSDOT removing and replacing “30 frayed and corroded anchor cables that hold the bridges in place on Lake Washington during windstorms.”

Cable cross section. Thanks Mike Murphy and Flickr.

Here’s the cool part:

“Unlike a typical road project, much of the work to replace anchor cables will be out of the public eye. Specially-trained commercial deep-sea divers will haul the cables as deep as 200 feet, remove the old cables and attach the new ones. A barge will be standing by with an on-board decompression chamber to treat divers after they resurface. Once each new cable is connected to its anchor on the lake bed, workers can fasten them to the floating bridge pontoons. Each cable takes about a day to replace.” From Mike Murphy at WSDOT.

Specially trained divers! On-board decompression chambers! Barge standing by!  THAT’S SO COOL.

Opening the hatch. Flickr.

Frayed cable. Flickr.

Keep an eye out as you drive over I-90 for divers surfacing from the deep.

Groundbreaking: 24-hour HOV Capacity on I-90

We’re one step closer to 2-way, all way HOV and Light Rail on I-90. Sound Transit and the WSDOT broke ground on Stage 2 of the new HOV lane and East Link light rail project. Here’s what it’ll look like when it’s all done:

Click for larger view.

From the press release:
“The new HOV lanes and HOV direct access ramps will help improve the speed, safety, and reliability of buses that use I-90, and will help meet the growing demand of transit users on both sides of Lake Washington. Currently, buses and carpools traveling I-90 in the off-peak direction often are stuck in traffic because the reversible center express lanes operate only in the peak direction (westbound in the morning and eastbound at night). The new HOV lanes between Seattle and Bellevue will offer 24-hour HOV capacity both eastbound and westbound. HOV direct access on- and off-ramps will enable buses and carpools to access the HOV lanes without crossing other lanes of traffic.”

“The second stage of the project now getting underway will add a new eastbound HOV lane between Mercer Island and Bellevue. The first stage of the project opened in 2008 with new westbound HOV lane between Bellevue Way and 80th Avenue Southeast on Mercer Island and improved HOV access in Mercer Island and Bellevue. The third and final stage will add HOV lanes to both directions of I-90 between Mercer Island and Seattle, clearing the way for light rail to be constructed in the center lanes.”

Here’s a photo from the groundbreaking (thanks Andrew Schmid at Sound Transit for sending):

There’s nothing ten people in suits with shovels can’t build.

Just Out: Drawings of Mercer Island Light Rail Station

Looks like the link rail station will take over the Express Lane entrances downtown. A nice design that leverages the current configuration:

Daily Journal of Commerce has more drawings. Anyone got a subscription?

In MI Reporter’s summary of the Sound Transit hearing, sounds like there was a lot of bellyaching: “Others, too, asked about the center lanes with concerns about fire and emergency access, disruption and noise during construction and access to the park and ride and transit during the day.”

The truth is that nothing I’ve heard about the current plans address that fact that you can’t park at the MI Park and Ride. But since we’re not getting Light Rail til the ’20s we’ve got some time to stew on it.

I-90 Express Lanes Traded for Light Rail and a Player to be Named Later

This just in: I-90 Express Lanes will be converted to Light Rail. Sound Transit will fund new car pool lanes over I-90.

Light rail charges on. Photo from Sound Transit.

I can’t tell from the Seattle Times article if Mercer Island residents will be able to use the car pool lanes like the Express Lanes, but use of the term “car pool” makes me think not.

King County Assessor and More on ICW

Before we get into the Assessor’s race, an update on the most contested race on the Island this election year: the race for City Council Position #2. No fewer than 6 former Mercer Island mayors (including Fred “loved by all” Jarrett) sent a letter endorsing Grausz as a good guy on the Council and Ira as a rabble-rouser who uses scare tactics.


Meanwhile, Ira has expanded his single-issue “No Road Diet” campaign to include opposition to any tolling on I-90. And he sent a letter too.


And Now, Assessing the Assessor

The King County Assessor race probably falls into the less interesting of the ballot items this November, but it’s important to homeowners. The Assessor is the one whose office tells you how much your property is worth in the eyes of the county and therefore, how much you’ll pay in taxes. This is an off-schedule election due to recent turmoil in the Assessor’s office.

I’ve narrowed down the candidates based on the Seattle Municipal League’s ratings because, frankly, it’s Sunday night and I’m tired. So here are the 3 rated “Good” or “Very Good” by the League:

  • Lloyd Hara, Seattle Port Commissioner, who’s running on his management experience
  • Bob Rosenberger, Retired Deputy Assessor who’s running on his experience as an Assessor and as part of the Assessor’s office
  • Graham Albertini, Appraiser and teacher of Appraisers

All have some kind of fairness or current value language in their platforms, referring to assessing real values instead of the real estate peak. Rosenberger also talks about “reducing exemptions” that shift the burden to normal taxpayers. Based on the candidates’ statements and their experience, I’ll vote for Rosenberger though Lloyd Hara would probably be a good Assessor as well.

Aside: What the Assessor’s Taxes Pay For

The Assessor’s race is also important to anyone with kids in the local schools, because it was a fall in tax revenues that caused $2.4 million in cuts to Mercer Island schools this year. The Mercer Island Schools Foundation helped to partly address with $1 million in fundraising, about half of which went directly to saving 5.4 teaching positions. The organization doing a phone-a-thon Oct. 26th and 27th, so expect to hear from them.


Transportation Issues Wrap-Up

Trains (aka Light Rail)

The Bellevue Reporter has a good article on the options for the light rail routes on the East Side. Mostly the article concerns where the train will go in Bellevue and Redmond,  since the decision on Mercer Island is trivial. If you plan to be traveling to Bellevue in 2023 when the East Link is complete, read this.


Sound Transit’s simulation of Light Rail over I-90.


In more near-term news, Mercer Island’s own Fred Jarrett argues in Crosscut for a more metric-driven approach to planning transit: basically, cut service where it’s not working and don’t cut where it is. (The fiscal reality is that Metro has to cut somewhere.) The current system promises quantity of service by region: 20% Seattle, 40% East Side, and 40% South King County.

In Fred’s own words, why to shift Metro away from regional allocation:

“Measuring effort by neighborhood benefits no one moving between neighborhoods. Further, it has created a system that measures effort rather than performance and results in unacceptability high costs by almost every measure. The Municipal League has documented the agency’s high cost per mile. While that figure is troubling, the high cost per rider is cause for even greater alarm as it clearly indicates that the system’s routes aren’t as productive as they should be.”

Nicely said, Fred.


250px-The_Alaskan_Way_Viaduct Island-Crest-Way-2

So different, yet so much the same.

A bubbling issue relevant only on our own Island is whether Island Crest Way should go to 3 lanes south of 40th or stay at 4 lanes. We’ve been debating this so long it’s becoming our very own Alaskan Way Viaduct. For those who don’t follow city politics or drive, the Alaskan Way situation has been debated since it was damaged in the 2001Nisqually Earthqauke until finally a resolution was reached in 2009– a resolution since reopened in the Seattle mayoral race.

What’s driving the Island Crest Way issue is the intersection at Merrimount, which had been the Island’s most dangerous intersection and now has temporary traffic control. This issue deserves its space– watch for a post soon.

I-90 Closures Start Today

A reminder that today I-90 closures start, funneling all Westbound drivers into the Express Lanes. Several on/off ramps will also be closed for a couple of weeks.

According to the handy WSDOT “What’s Happening Now” page, commuting from I-405 to Rainier Ave is taking about 31 minutes. Or check the traffic map, which tells the story:


Bike commuting is a good option, so is changing your hours. Anyone brave rush hour today and got stories to tell of it? I’ll also be posting photos as I get them.