September 24, 2015

Remarks by Lori Otto Punke, Executive Director, Vision Mercer Island. Delivered at Sound Transit Listening Session, September 24, 2015, Mercer Island, Washington.  

My name is Lori Otto Punke and I am the Executive Director of Vision Mercer Island.  Our mission is to educate people on the complex transportation issues facing Mercer Island and the region.  We’ve dug deeply into the issues, talked to experts, residents and businesses.  We’ve conducted a comprehensive survey of Islanders.  Here are three observations:

1)     Islanders aren’t special, but Mercer Island is a unique geography in a unique situation

Nowhere else in the US exists such a large, populated Island wedged between a major metro core and its close suburbs, connected only by a primary interstate.    This obviously presents unique transportation challenges, and Mercer Island has longstanding contractual rights because of this.  

Our survey is still open so we don’t have final data yet, but I can tell you that the response has been incredible and the overwhelming majority do care about the issues and want the Council to negotiate fiercely.  But Islanders also have a long history of working collaboratively for regional transportation, and will do it again now.

2)     All of the issues being discussed have win-win solutions.  Being obstructionist will not help our transportation realities, and neither will the governmental institutions’ reflexive reaction to say, “we can’t do that.”  Encouraging transit ridership, preventing gridlock and mitigating disruption are goals shared by Mercer Island, transportation agencies and the region.  

So whether were talking about parking, HOV lanes, tolls, bus intercepts, direct access ramps, shuttle service, cut-through traffic, construction closures, or any other part of this integrated picture, let’s all recognize that what’s good for Mercer Island can also be good for regional transportation.

3)     This must be a public process, but it can be a constructive one.

If Sound Transit wrote Mercer Island a big fat check right now, we’d have beautiful parks but we’d be stuck in gridlock.  We have to negotiate a comprehensive solution with the appropriate public input.  

But, nobody wants a repeat of the multi-year, adversarial process other cities went through.   So, to the officials here today, thank you for listening and please, please incorporate what Islanders are saying.  And to Islanders participating today, thank you for speaking up, and please continue to be constructive to the process.

In the 1970s, people were skeptical that a deal on I-90 could be reached.  If everyone is educated about the transportation realities we face today, we have another once-in-a-generation opportunity for Mercer Island to be a leader in finding win-win transportation solutions.

Thank you.


About Vision Mercer Island

Vision Mercer Island is a community organization created to educate Mercer Island residents about the complex transportation issues facing our Island. Our aim is to help create a climate for a comprehensive transportation plan that Mercer Island will be proud of for decades to come. For more information, visit



Lori Otto Punke