Friday, September 13, 2013

Washington court: Link LRT OK on I-90

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Washington court: Link LRT OK on I-90 Sound Transit

The Washington State Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit to forbid light rail transit on Interstate 90, removing one obstable blocking Sound Transit's East Link Extension between Seattle and Redmond, Wash.

In a 7-to-2 decision Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, the court ruled that public transit doesn't violate any local or federal laws concerning highway rights-of-way use. Sound Transit Link LRT, therefore, can use center express lanes of a floating Interstate bridge spanning Lake Washington, with buses and carpool traffic reassigned to outer lanes.

"In 1976, several parties executed a 'Memorandum of Agreement' (MOA) resulting in the present configuration of I-90," the court said in its 13-page decision. "These parties included King County, Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue, the municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, and the Washington State Highway Commission.

"The parties to the MOA declared that I-90 would have no more than eight lanes and that two of the lanes would be designed for and permanently committed to transit use," the court said. "I-90 was to be designed so that "conversion of all or part of the transit roadway to fixed guideway is possible."

The lawsuit, Docket No. 87267-8, was filed by real estate developer Kemper Freeman and 12 other individuals, along with the East Side Transportation Association, who sought to ban LRT in favor of rubber-tire-only options, saying state gas tax laws disallowed any funding leeway.

But a majority of the court apparently factored in the position of the Federal Highway Administration, which paid for most of the I-90 construction cost, and which supports LRT's use of the bridge.

The $2.8 billion, 14-mile East Link Extension is scheduled to begin revenue service in 2023, with daily ridership of 50,000 anticipated by 2030. Previous resistance to the line’s construction included a demand by Bellevue, Wash., to route the extension through a tunnel downtown, to which Sound Transit agreed.

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