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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Washington's Supreme Court rules in favor of Sound Transit's East Link light-rail project

The Washington State Supreme Court yesterday dismissed a local developer's lawsuit seeking to stop Sound Transit's construction of the East Link light-rail line across Lake Washington on Interstate 90.

The court ruled that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) had the authority to lease the I-90 center lanes to Sound Transit for the light-rail project. The court rejected the arguments of Bellevue, Wash., developer Kemper Freeman and the Eastside Transportation Association, which claimed the lease violated the state's constitution.

Design work for the project, which would convert center reversible high-occupancy vehicle and bus lanes of I-90 into light rail to extend service to East King County, now can move forward with a focus on opening for service in 2023, said Sound Transit Chairman and Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy in a press release.

The court affirmed that the East Link project is consistent with plans and agreements that have been in place since before the I-90 bridge was built.

"We are grateful for the Supreme Court's confirmation … that the I-90 bridge was built with the clear intent to use the center lanes for mass transit," McCarthy said. "Our partnership with the WSDOT will make this longtime vision a reality, while at the same time preserving the current number of vehicle lanes."

Construction of East Link is scheduled to begin in 2015, with work on the I-90 portion slated to begin in late 2016, following completion of new HOV lanes across Lake Washington, Sound Transit officials said.


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