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I-90 Bridge Lawsuit Claims Light Rail “Not A Highway Purpose”


I-90 Bridge Lawsuit Moves To Kittitas County Superior Court

 

On the heels of a recent ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court, a legal fight to stop the seven mile center express roadway of Interstate-90, including the Lake Washington Floating Bridge from being transferred illegally has moved to a new battleground – Kittitas County Superior Court in Ellensburg.
Speaking about choosing the Kittitas County Superior Court to place the suit, George Kargianis and Phil Talmadge, counsel for the plaintiffs, said,¬†‚ÄúThis is not a Puget Sound only issue.¬†¬†What happens in that seven mile stretch and over the bridge affects everyone in the state.‚ÄĚ Counsel explained that Interstate-90 serves as the gateway to Snoqualmie Pass and Puget Sound for all of Washington‚Äôs agriculture and commerce.¬†¬†‚ÄúWe are asking Kittitas County Superior Court to hear our case because the County is the most central in the state and borders Interstate I-90 and linking eastern and western Washington.‚ÄĚ
The lawsuit first came about nearly two years ago when the Washington State Department of Transportation began preparations to transfer use of the I-90 center express lanes to Sound Transit for the purpose of building light rail across the bridge, over Mercer Island and on through the seven mile corridor.
But a group of leaders from around the state led by Bellevue businessman Kemper Freeman filed a Writ of Prohibition in the Supreme Court to stop the state from performing an illegal act.  A Writ of Prohibition is a special emergency legal action that bypasses lower courts when a legal action by the state is occurring or about to occur and immediate determination is needed.
The group contends the 18th Amendment to the Washington State Constitution prohibits state highways that are built using gas tax revenues, and that are not surplus roads, from being converted to ‚Äúnon-highway purposes,‚ÄĚ as defined in the law.¬†¬†The State Supreme Court has previously ruled that rail is not a highway purpose.
‚ÄúThose seven miles are not surplus by anyone‚Äôs estimation.¬†¬†And light rail is not a highway purpose,‚ÄĚ stated Freeman at a recent meeting of the plaintiffs.
In the late April ruling, the High Court in essence decided that the case was not ready to be heard by the Supreme Court and informed the plaintiffs that arguments should be taken up in superior court first.
Former State Senator Jim Horn of Mercer Island, another plaintiff and past Chair of the State Senate Transportation Committee, says that losing the center express lanes reduces the roadway capacity essentially one third by altering the roadway from ten lanes to eight lanes.
‚ÄúThe I-90 center-roadway is too valuable, and our highway needs are far too great to have it converted to single purpose non-highway use by light rail.¬†¬†Doing so would certainly raise the misery index for those stuck in traffic day in and day out,‚ÄĚ says Horn.
Bryan Boehm of American Container Transport in Ellensburg, one of the eastern Washington plaintiffs in the lawsuit, says consumers could see higher prices in the store, and that exports could be hurt because of increased delay times for trucks coming over Snoqualmie Pass.¬†¬†¬†Says Boehm,¬†‚ÄúThousands of trucks from Boston to Seattle use I-90 and the floating bridge corridor every day, and we are very concerned about getting bottled up in the last seven miles.‚ÄĚ
Another of the plaintiffs, Sarah Rindlaub, Board Member with the Washington Policy Center in Seattle is also concerned about the consequences of such a highway transfer.¬†¬†‚ÄúViolating the law is never an option.¬†¬†The 18th Amendment came about in the first place to protect the people‚Äôs gas taxes from being hijacked for other causes, no matter what the purpose.‚ÄĚ
The timetable for a Kittitas County Superior Court ruling could be several months, at which time, other appeals are possible. According to legal counsel, in time, the case will likely find itself right back on the doorstep of the High Court.
Expressing his personal reasons for continuing the legal action, says Kemper Freeman:¬†‚ÄúIt‚Äôs because there‚Äôs never a right time to do a wrong thing.¬†¬†And doing the wrong thing in this case will hurt everyone in the state for years to come.‚ÄĚ

 

About Rob Butcher

Editor and Scribbler of Kirkland Views.

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  • John Gilday

    ¬†I’m amazed more people aren’t up in arms about this silly expenditure of funds. ¬†One needs only look at the light rail already constructed in Seattle to realize that NO ONE RIDES IT !

    Billions to build, a huge cost in security and graffiti removal, not to mention the sledgehammer used via Eminent Domain to amass the land required.

    Light Rail only works when there are large AND DENSE population centers at both ends – Seattle to Redmond does not qualify.

    Steel wheels can’t be redirected when the situation calls for it – rubber tires can.

    For 1/5 the cost of this boondoggle we can equip a massive fleet of luxury buses to take office workers (the only taxpayers that travel by public transit) from their homes in dozens of Eastside communities to Seattle and back again.
    (Although the reverse route is also true, as the riders of the BUSES of Microsoft Connector system can attest).

    Seattle is hamstrung by a ridiculous mayor and his personal agenda Рlets not sit back on The Eastside and let it infect us as well.  

    We have a moat between us for a reason.

  • Skye

    ¬†”One needs only look at the light rail already constructed in Seattle to realize that NO ONE RIDES IT !” — I ride the light rail often (and also ride buses, drive my SUV, ride a bike, and walk), and it is often at full capacity. One can make arguments about whether people would or would not ride light rail in Bellevue … but please don’t base them on ignorance of current light rail use in Seattle.

  • Mike

    Sound Transit ‘cooked the books’ to make ridership look great when convincing the Feds to fund rail to the airport. ¬†Ridership is about half that projected in the request, and now government is paying twice as much to subsidize a trip from Seattle to SeaTac than on the buses it replaced.
    I-90 will be even worse, shoehorning all that traffic onto narrowed lanes, with even more demand due to tolling on SR520 – which will require tolling on I-90 to balance the new pain.
    Sometime in the year 2020 trains may actually run across the bridge, but only one every 10 to 15 minutes, and mostly empty.
    Yes, the center lanes will be as vacant as a desert for all but brief periods, while trucks, buses, and cars muck along another congested roadway.
    Carry on Mr. Freeman. ¬†It’s a battle worth winning.

  • Anonymous

    Ummm… nearly 4 MILLION people rode Link Light Rail last year. ¬†You’re saying we’re nobody?

    There are numerous valid reasons for constructing the system including REDUCING congestion on roadways.  The plan to put Light Rail on the I-90 bridge does not reduce lanes because there is enough buffer space to re-align the roadway.  

    This suit in a venue shopped for the convenience of the plaintiffs will also be fruitless.  

  • Mike

    No, your the¬†privileged¬†few who are soaking everyone else to the tune of $7.00¬†every time¬†your fat little arse hits the train seat. ¬†Metro would have ‘gotten you there’ for less than half that, quicker, and with better on-time reliability on the 194 bus that was forced to be eliminated to feed the rail line. ¬†Enjoy your taxpayer, gold-plated boondoggle train trip, while the rest of the average citizens pay for your folly.
    By the way, when you narrow lanes, and eliminate shoulders on freeways, speeds go down, accidents get worse, and people die unnecessarily.  Enjoy your next trip.

  • http://grantmcwilliams.com grantmasterflash

    Buses are subsidized at an equal rate. Might want to check that fact.

  • Anonymous

    Do you really want to get into a discussion about transportation subsidies when it comes to roads? Your “ass” fat or otherwise, sitting in your steel cocoon, costs the taxpayers plenty while you enjoy your solitary ride from Issaquah or Woodinville. And, no, your gas taxes and MVET do not cover the cost the taxpayers pay to keep you in your fancy ride.

    If you’d bothered to look at the planning documents, you’ll find that there is still plenty of shoulder space on the I-90 bridge after conversion. As for narrower lanes causing accidents, again, no evidence. If anything, the 40,000 car trips that Eastlink will take off the roads should allow you to continue enjoying your solitary ride if the gas prices or lack of fuel availability doesn’t otherwise spoil your trip.

    Oh and if you’re so concerned about accidents and people dying unnecessarily, then get out of your cars.

  • Anon

    Car-hugging, eastside guffawing at it’s best!

  • Mike

    I have. ¬†You’re wrong. ¬†Your evidence please, or sit down and be quiet.

  • Mike

    Sound Transit subsidizes rail trips using tax dollars at the rate of $7.00 per boarding.  Metro at the rate of $3.00 per boarding.
    Only 1 trip in 10 is taken on transit of any kind in the Puget Sound, yet is paid for by Sales and MVET by everyone.  
    So 90% of the subsidy is paid by everyone else (mostly drivers) so you can have a ride that cost us twice as much as it should.
    SHAME ON YOU.  
    Pay your own way or you too may sit down and be quiet.

  • http://grantmcwilliams.com grantmasterflash

    Farebox recovery on light rail is¬† at the same percentage as commuter buses. Google is your friend. It won’t be too hard for even you to do.

  • http://grantmcwilliams.com grantmasterflash

    Farebox recovery on light rail is¬† at the same percentage as commuter buses. Google is your friend. It won’t be too hard for even you to do.

  • dhodun

    Roads are subsidized too. At least this goes from somewhere to somewhere. Airport lines never get high ridership. However, you hit Bellevue downtown, got people living in DT Bellevue, they will probably choose light rail over driving 405 and 90.

  • Mike

    Percentage yes, actual dollars NO.  From recently released 1st Qtr reports from Sound Transit:
    Light Rail cost per boarding is $7.45 per person.
    Metro cost per boarding is 3.90.
    If you subsidize 75% of both fares, with tax dollars, Then Metro is twice the bargain for the buck.
    Sorry to shoot holes in your argument.  Go back to school.

  • http://grantmcwilliams.com grantmasterflash

    And what about Sound Transit buses since you insist on comparing apples to oranges maybe we should do a more direct comparison – rail to bus. Might as well add in Tacoma Link too. Since there’s no charge to ride it you might think we’re losing way more money on it right?

  • Mike

    This whole dialog began to point out the¬†disparity¬†between rail and bus, ala Seattle Style. ¬†The reverse holds true in most other cities, but this is Seattle, and we never found a project that couldn’t be made more complicated and expensive. ¬†
    Light rail is fulfilling all those expectations.My cost per ride numbers are accurate, but omit the several billion dollars invested in the system, which will have to be paid back by our children sometime by 2053.If you add the debt service and depreciation of equipment, the cost per ride goes way over $10 each.Metro’s cost per ride includes debt and depreciation.If you ride the train, it’s on the backs of 90% of Puget Sounders that don’t or can’t. ¬†Count your blessings, but don’t awake the masses, less they be pissed.

  • Mike

    This whole dialog began to point out the¬†disparity¬†between rail and bus, ala Seattle Style. ¬†The reverse holds true in most other cities, but this is Seattle, and we never found a project that couldn’t be made more complicated and expensive. ¬†
    Light rail is fulfilling all those expectations.My cost per ride numbers are accurate, but omit the several billion dollars invested in the system, which will have to be paid back by our children sometime by 2053.If you add the debt service and depreciation of equipment, the cost per ride goes way over $10 each.Metro’s cost per ride includes debt and depreciation.If you ride the train, it’s on the backs of 90% of Puget Sounders that don’t or can’t. ¬†Count your blessings, but don’t awake the masses, less they be pissed.

  • http://grantmcwilliams.com grantmasterflash

    LOL, so you looked up the numbers and realized that the Light Rail was actually costing less per rider than Sound Transits own bus service, the Tacoma Link (which is free to ride) is only costing taxpayers $3 a person (which means if they charged like every other transit option it would be breaking even), the monorail actually makes money and you decided to fill your response with BS. Nice. 

    If you want to add in the cost of infrastructure then let’s start talking about how much it cost to pave ALL of the streets that metro drives down and all of the freeways that Sound Transit drives buses down. Apples to Apples…. Bus/plane/car people always do this. It’s OK for taxpayers to pay for road and airport infrastructure but not for rail infrastructure. For some reason that makes sense to you.

    If you look at Metros own data on cost per boarding broken out by route some of them are as low as $3 per rider meaning they almost break even but they have some routes that are as high as $22/boarding. If you really want to go after a highly subsidized rail line you should be talking about Sounder as each rider costs $12 and they only pay about $4-5. Then you’d have a point. Sounder boardings cost almost twice that of Link, 4x that of Tacoma Link and 6x that of monorail. You can blame that on the Diesel Locomotives I’d think.

    It might be nice to also look at what Light Rail can do if in the proper hands. Vancouver Sky train is now in the black and carries 5x the people as our Link. When you build it out it gets cheaper per rider.

  • John Gilday

    I just
    wanted
    to see
    how thin
    comments
    could get :)

  • Mike

    V
    e
    r
    y
    .
    T
    h
    i
    n

  • PaulR

    Why has nobody brought up the fact that the basis for the lawsuit is without merit. The deal with WSDOT conveys the center roadway to ST for LRT; in return ST will fund new HOV lanes on the outer roadways. The result will be no loss of total lane capacity and bi-directional express lanes will be gained – something we don’t have today. http://projects.soundtransit.org/Documents/pdf/projects/eastlink/eastLink_Truck_0109.pdf

  • John Gilday

    .
    .
    .
    !

  • Per-Ola

    I’m all for light rail, but please not on the I-90 bridge.
    We need, and are in the process of (maybe) building a new SR-520 bridge. Design and build that one for Light Rail from day one, put the trains there, and we will also get great access to the new UW Station.

    Sure, there are major issues that needs to be ironed out, but so are there with the current alignment (just follow the never ending debate in Bellevue) as well.

    Projects like these (transit, highways, bridges) are MAJOR infrastructure¬†projects¬†that are needed to support our region (and we are not even talking about needed maintenance on old and crumbling infrastructure) and they should be paid by taxes. Yes, I do support a higher tax for all and everyone to ensure that we have “what is needed” to support the basic infrastructure in our ever more complex society.

    That said, current and past projects have been debated forever, ran over budget and been generally mismanaged. All resulting in a situation where no one (or rather few) now are willing to pay taxes because the majority feel that they don’t get their money’s worth.

    Me thinks that better management, less overhead, quicker decisions (yes, with the risk of railroading some groups or property owners), would lead to at least a slim chance for these projects to actually be built so we (who paid for them), also can enjoy them in our life time.

    I was raised and lived in Europe for some 30 years. Apart from the Interstate System, I think unfortunately that we are so far behind when it comes to major public projects that it is just sad. We debate and bicker, but NEVER get anywhere (except burning hundreds of millions of $$$$ in the process).

    A very recent example (simplified) of two project that size-wise and capacity wise are very similar:
    Waterfront tunnel: in Seattle: ~$4B give or take
    Waterfront tunnel in Gothenburg, Sweden: ~$600M
    (note that Sweden is a country with very high labor cost, and even if their calculations are off by a factor two, the Seattle Tunnel is at least still 3 times as pricey).

    Norway started to dig all of their major¬†thoroughfares under the city and the harbor some decades ago. Those projects totally transformed the city, and most of those projects¬†(financed¬†via tolls…) are getting close to be paid off. I think one in Trondheim (Norway) actually recently has turned “free” as tolls have paid all the project debt off sooner than expected.

    So, we can debate public projects forever, but what we need are visionary public leaders that can look far ahead, good Engineers with a worldwide perspective to learn from the “best of breeds” and deploy those practices here. Then we need even better Project Managers to keep projects on track and with a tight grip of the purse, and finally a public that is truly willing to pay for these project.

    If the public is not willing to pay for these projects, should we even pursue them? Probably not, but we should then also be ready to accept the trailing consequences Рunless we also shut off the region and in order to not allow any more people or businesses to relocate here.

    Sorry, rant-mode off. Just been loading up over a few weeks :-)

  • Drew Cunningham

    I think most of your post has already been dissected, so I will only comment on the:
    ¬†”Light Rail only works when there are large AND DENSE population centers at both ends – Seattle to Redmond does not qualify.”

    First, I have to wonder if you don’t consider downtown Bellevue (the 2nd largest city in the state) and Microsoft to be dense enough to qualify, what you would qualify a “dense population center”. Particularly when talking about density, it is important to keep in mind the peak flows between the points (Microsoft employs over 20,000 workers at its Redmond campus alone).

    Second, when you look at most transit systems, they actually are opposite and situate dense populations near the center and sub-center with medium-low density suburbs at the line terminuses.

  • Anonymous

    1 bus is equivalent to 7 lanes of cars taken off the road. As for subsides, are you at all concerned about the $3300 that has been paid for every person in this country to keep your gasoline flowing to your car and maintaining that car lifestyle? Are you concerned about the grotesque loss of life and terror that our oil consumption generates? Are you concerned about the billions in subsides we pay to oil and gas companies so that THEY have the privilege of drilling for oil on FEDERAL lands and sea beds? And what are you going to do when the oil gets so scarce that it costs $7/gal? Are you going to advocate invading yet ANOTHER country?

    The future is not gas powered cars but dense, walkable neighborhoods with excellent public transportation.

    Every road in this state is paid for by every citizen. The funding of public transportation is appropriate and it benefits you even if you don’t use it. Don’t presume for one second that your use of roads is entirely paid for by the taxes and MVET that you pay.

  • Anonymous

    The 194 has a fraction of the capacity of Link light rail and higher operating costs. And the purpose of link is not simply to shuttle people to the airport. In 2016, when the UW and Capitol Hill stations come online, the alignment of buses will change dramatically and a very large percentage of people will begin using the train to get to those destinations and do it at a fraction of the time that buses are taking. By 2022, you’ll be able to commute across the lake in the fraction of the time it would take to sit in traffic on the bridges. The very existence of EastLink will relieve enough pressure on the bridges to make YOUR continued car commute bearable. It means not spending additional billions on another car bridge or freeway.