Eastside Light Rail Moves Forward After Court Challenge

Sep 12, 2013

Computer simulation of light rail trains on the Interstate 90 floating bridge over Lake Washington.  The Eastside light rail project is expected to be completed by 2023.
Computer simulation of light rail trains on the Interstate 90 floating bridge over Lake Washington. The Eastside light rail project is expected to be completed by 2023.
Credit Sound Transit

A plan to build light rail tracks on the Interstate 90 floating bridge can move forward.

In a 7-2 opinion, the Washington State Supreme Court sided with Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation, and against Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman and others.

The business people filed suit against the transportation agencies, claiming plans to install the tracks on the floating bridge were unconstitutional. They argued that highway funds, including gas tax revenues, were not allowed to pay for mass transit projects.

The high court disagreed. Chief Justice Barbara A. Madsen wrote in the majority opinion that Sound Transit is also going to be leasing the lanes of the floating bridge so it can install the light rail tracks.

The Washington State Department of Transportation will use that money to build new HOV lanes for traffic on the bridge.

While the lawsuit was under consideration, planning for the project continued.

"We're very pleased with the Supreme Court decision" says Geoff Patrick, spokesman for Sound Transit.  "It creates a clear path for finally getting light rail across I-90."

Sound Transit has continued to plan the Eastside light rail line, including the portion of the tracks that run over Interstate 90 during the court challenge.

"It's currently in the final stages of design" says Patrick, "Our focus is on starting construction in 2015."

The so-called East-Link Alignment construction would start in 2016, and the entire project is slated for completion in 2023.