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.
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.
Anyone interested in light rail on Mercer Island should attend the workshop on the planned Link station Tuesday night. Unfortunately I can’t go, but tell me how it goes. It’s at the Community Center at Mercer View from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
And as Seattle Transit Blog points out, anyone interested in using the Park and Ride should also go. If Light Rail doesn’t connect to the Park-and-Ride in Bellevue, many East Side riders might drive to Mercer Island to pick up the light rail to the airport or the city.
If you use the Park-and-Ride, you know it’s completely packed full by 8 or 8:30 a.m. most weekdays. Any additional load means bleary eyes for Mercer Island commuters who’ll need to park by, say, 6 a.m. to use the only Park-and-Ride available to us. Ouch. If you have time, please go to the workshop.
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.
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.
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.
The Seattle Times reports that the state budget restored money for carpool lanes over I-90. This should quiet a lot of the opposition to light rail over I-90. It may also keep traffic moving, since the lanes must be in place before tracks can go over the Express Lanes. If you haven’t been following, there’s been a debate over how to compensate for the loss of the Express Lanes to Light Rail.
In other transportation news, the City’s seeking comment on the 2010-2015 transportation plan– find details and send comments here. And for inspiration, here’s the current plan of street improvements (click for pdf):
There’s a lot of work in Mid-Island, especially around the troublesome intersection at Merrimount Way.
Now let’s look at the history of street resurfacing- fun!
If you got a kick out of this post, you should definitely comment on the plan.
There’s a fiery new debate about light rail over Mercer Island. Judy Clibborn is standing right next to it with a can of kerosine. If you haven’t heard, Judy is proposing that we not begin light rail until we have HOV lanes across I-90 (the express lanes are to be used for the light rail). Of course, if you’ve seen the system map, you know that I-90 is the critical link in the regional light rail plan, connecting Seattle and the East side.
It may seem that since voters approved Light Rail in Prop 1 last November, and since it’s mostly funded, it’s a done deal. That does not seem to be the case.
The main issue seems to be timing: does light rail happen before or after there’s an alternate HOV solution for Mercer Island? But in politics, a delay can often lead to major changes or death for a plan. The Seattle Times suggests that’s the motivation of many in the state legislature.
I wish I could add a cool survey plugin, but we’ll have to do this the old-fashioned way. Add a comment if you’re in favor of HOV lanes first, or just getting on with light rail over I-90.
Photo credit: To potunasalad for I-90 and Bejan for light rail.
Since a majority of us approved Prop 1, Mercer Island will get a light rail station by 2020. Per the Reporter, light rail will replace the express lanes on the center of the three roadways. The system map:
Green line, you’re looking good. From MassTransitNow.
Before You Make Any Firm Plans
Before light rail can come here, HOV lanes need to be added to I-90’s outer roadways. According to the WSDOT’s website, that’s not going to happen til 2023 (end of Phase 3). So either the HOV lanes get sped up, or move out your commute planning a few years. You may retire before your light-rail-enabled commuting plans see any action. Or maybe the world will end in 2012.
I wonder if we’ll get new parking for the train? Mercer Island’s P&R parking is already full, as you know if you read this blog or try to park there.
News From Our Green-Line Friends
Slog, the Stranger’s blog, reports the planned Capitol Hill light rail station is meeting some resistance on the grounds that about 70 trees will be cut down for the station. Really, the best thing about this post is the comments that refer to the slanted photos of trees. “Isn’t it a bigger deal that gravity has somehow warped atop Capitol Hill? …. I’m worried about all the hipsters sliding across Broadway.” Heh.
Mercer Island, being a respectable neighborhood, has a blog that gives you level photos of trees. More or less.
In celebration of a new rail system for Seattle, here’s a photo of Seattle’s 1929 rail depot from one of my favorites local blogs, Vintage Seattle.