With Sound Transit's board set to adopt an updated transportation plan for King, Pierce and Snohomish counties July 7, Eastside cities are...

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With Sound Transit’s board set to adopt an updated transportation plan for King, Pierce and Snohomish counties July 7, Eastside cities are hustling to stuff the agency’s suggestion box with visions of the kind of transportation they want connecting their communities, and rough ideas of the routes along which those buses and trains should flow.

Bellevue, Issaquah and Kirkland city leaders have drafted letters outlining their wishes and concerns. Mercer Island’s council plans to discuss how best to present the city’s needs next month and has hired a lobbyist to guide them, former Bellevue and Association of Washington Cities lobbyist Chuck Mize. Other cities are counting on local representatives on Sound Transit’s board, including Issaquah City Councilman Fred Butler, Kenmore City Councilman Jack Crawford and Bellevue Mayor Connie Marshall, and their local transportation coalition, the Eastside Transportation Partnership, to make their cases.

While each community has its own needs, collectively the Eastside appears united behind some issues.

City leaders agree that something in addition to buses must cross the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, that trains and buses should have their own right of way to avoid being stuck on jam-packed Interstates 405 and 90 or Highway 520, and that Sound Transit should keep its options open as it studies each mode further.

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Where they differ is in the details:

• Mercer Island leaders want to maintain a privilege many islanders consider essential: use of I-90’s center bus and car-pool lanes for solo island drivers. Losing those lanes to light rail could snarl island traffic for miles as drivers merge onto the I-90 general-purpose lanes and make traffic that much worse for everyone else, they say.

Assistant City Manager Deb Symmonds said the city wants Sound Transit to continue studying bus rapid transit, a bus network that typically runs in its own right of way and otherwise mimics many features of rail, across I-90.

Sound Transit plan


Make a suggestion For more information about the long-range regional transportation plan or to share your opinion, visit http://www.soundtransit.org/
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• Kirkland leaders want some type of high-capacity transit (rail or buses that move more people faster than traditional bus systems) to connect Totem Lake with Bellevue, Seattle, Everett, Redmond and Tacoma. The council also wants assurance that users of the busy Kingsgate, South Kirkland and Houghton Park & Ride lots have easy access to whatever ends up being built, and it wants to reserve the BNSF Railway right of way, which runs alongside I-405, for transportation use.

• Issaquah wants its growing population connected to whatever major Eastside system is built, said Mayor Ava Frisinger.

• Speedy transit across 520 remains a priority for Redmond, said Mayor Rosemarie Ives, as well as better service from Redmond to suburban King County. “I think there are some corridors where bus rapid transit probably makes sense, and there are some corridors where light rail and monorail make sense,” Ives said.

• Bothell transportation manager Seyed Safavian said the Northshore city wants its own transit center like its neighbors, to complete a series of bus lanes along congested Highway 522, and to build some type of high-capacity transit between I-405 and I-5 to help students at University of Washington, Bothell, reach campus.

• Bellevue wants a station at the South Bellevue Park & Ride; wants downtown Seattle, downtown Bellevue and Overlake connected by a seamless trip with links to other major Eastside destinations; and wants stations near major city centers.

Later this year, Sound Transit will cull a package of projects from the long-range plan to put before voters as early as fall 2006.

The months in between is when the agency and communities it serves will debate the details: What combination of light rail, monorail or bus rapid transit would work best on the Eastside? What should be built first? And how much might voters be willing to pay?

Sound Transit’s critics, such as Richard Harkness of the anti-rail Citizens for Effective Transportation Alternatives, have said the agency unfairly favors light rail over other options, noting that a Sound Transit report in March put the cost of bus rapid transit as equal or more than an Eastside light-rail system.

In May, Sound Transit announced it had unintentionally overestimated the cost of bus rapid transit by $2 billion, due to the report’s authors misunderstanding information from the state and adjustments to the system’s design.

Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or kgaudette@seattletimes.com