(I wrote this in response to a Mercer Island resident’s email questioning whether East Link could be stopped)
It’s not a question of whether Sound Transit can be stopped its more a question of whether those who could stop it are willing to do so. East Link, (as well as the other light rail extensions to Federal Way and Lynnwood) if allowed to proceed, will generate hundreds of millions in revenue for the construction companies and their labor unions. Their influence on the WSDOT may or may not be the reason they have been such a “willing partner” (See 7/19/12 post).
It’s also reasonable to “suggest” the construction companies’ and unions’ contributions to legislators and others on “both sides of the aisle” may have influenced them. Whatever the reason, Sound Transits ability to “invest” hundreds of millions on light rail extension that would fail any competent cost/benefit analysis attests to some influence. The medias’ willingness to “overlook” obvious Sound Transit problems (10/25/12 post) has also been critical.
Mercer Island residents undoubtedly have the most to lose if East Link is allowed to proceed. They will lose their exclusive SOV access to the center roadway and forced to use onramps to the outer roadway that will undoubtedly be limited by signal lights to one car at a time from I-90 congestion; a sure recipe for long backups. (If they chose to ride light rail they will likely be forced to stand as the 74 seats on each car will probably be occupied by the time they reach Mercer Island.)
To be fair they would also lose SOV center roadway access if it were used for two-way BRT. However, outer roadway congestion would be reduced by eliminating buses and by attracting more commuters to the improved bus service (See 8/08/12 post). Thus the “throttling” effect of the signal lights would be far less severe.
It’s also fair to say that Mercer Island has a great deal of “influence” in legislature with Rep. Judy Clibborn and Sen. Steve Litzow having prominent positions there. They could use the legislature's oversight of the WSDOT to raise concerns about the apparent WSDOT/ST lawyer misconduct in the recent Supreme Court Freeman/ETA decision allowing East Link to proceed (See 9/23/13). I’m no lawyer but such actions would seem to be grounds for a reversal that would effectively stop East Link. Sound Transit would have a moral if not legal obligation to spend that money on eastside transportation improvements. (Eastside tax revenues provide about 40% of Sound Transit tax revenue).
Again East Link can be stopped. Getting a reversal of the recent Freeman decision is probably the easiest but not the only way to do so. Whether those who can stop it will do so remains to be seen.