Plus, Mercer Island I-90 access
In a presentation to the City Council Monday night, Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Peter Rogoff stated East Link light rail construction is about to "get more real," and encouraged residents and businesses to remember that "better days are ahead" once the project is operational. Rogoff was joined by Ron Lewis, deputy executive director of East Link, and other Sound Transit staff to give an update on the segments of East Link.
During the update, Sound Transit noted that it has awarded construction contracts for all of the segments and expects work along the entire 14-mile alignment this summer. Major upcoming construction activities include:
- Closure of the I-90 center lanes leading to south Bellevue;
- Closure of the South Bellevue Park and Ride on Tuesday, May 30;
- Utility work in preparation of the four stations in central Bellevue and similar work in the BelRed segment; and
- Ongoing tunnel excavation from the East Main Station to the Bellevue Downtown Station (about 150 feet having already been excavated).
Additionally, in the Overlake segment, Sound Transit pledged to monitor operations in the wake of the closure of the Overlake Transit Center Park and Ride on May 1. The agency will be removing trees and demolishing commercial buildings in the area. These activities along State Route 520 are expected to begin in June.
Lewis explained construction traffic management, requiring lane closures on Bellevue Way, will become necessary later this year. However the timing of the lane closures on 112th Avenue Southeast is unknown since the contractor is in the stages of finalizing the schedule.
During the discussion, councilmembers expressed their satisfaction over mitigation measures agreed to by the City of Bellevue and Sound Transit. These measures specifically target noise, traffic and environmental impacts. The council further noted that this work will make a positive difference in the delivery of light rail to the residents.
An update was also provided on the Operations and Maintenance Facility-East,to be located in the BelRed area near the Spring District/120th light rail station. The maintenance facililty will operate "24/7, 365" to store, service and deploy 96 light rail vehicles, serve as the maintenance center, and be the administrative facility that supports 250 full-time employees. Sound Transit is finalizing negotiations with the design-builder and anticipates the Sound Transit Board awarding the contract at its May 25 meeting, with construction to begin later this year.
Residents are encouraged to sign up for updates on the Sound Transit East Link web page.
Mercer Island I-90 access
The council was later briefed on an issue surrounding single-occupancy vehicle access to I-90 via high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Mercer Island.
In preparation for East Link light rail construction in the center roadway of I-90 scheduled to begin this June, the state Department of Transportation and Sound Transit are implementing a plan to add new HOV lanes alongside the general purpose lanes of the I-90 outer roadway between Seattle and Bellevue. WSDOT has also built new HOV on- and off-ramps on Mercer Island and modified I-90 access at Bellevue Way.
In an August 2016 letter to Mercer Island and WSDOT, the Federal Highway Administration clarified that Mercer Island single-occupancy vehicles having access to HOV lanes on I-90 is in conflict with federal law. Since that time, WSDOT, Mercer Island and Sound Transit have been working together to resolve access concerns. Mercer Island has developed a potential solution and requested Bellevue's participation in a letter addressed to U.S. Department of Transportation asking for approval.
While noting their empathy for Mercer Island residents, councilmembers brought up a number of concerns regarding the proposal, including increased accident rates, added travel times for morning commuters from the Eastside heading into Seattle and a need for further traffic modeling. Given these questions, and the need for more information, the city did not sign on to the letter at this time.
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