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

NEWS RELEASE

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 www.visionmercerisland.org.

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MEDIA CONTACT

Lori Otto Punke
visionmercerisland@gmail.com
(253)470-6543

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Mercer Island Community Gets New Voice on Transportation Issues

NEWS RELEASE

September 1, 2015

Mercer Island Community Gets New Voice on Transportation Issues

Nonprofit Vision Mercer Island to conduct online survey to identify real resident concerns on impact of infrastructure changes to community

Mercer Island, Wash.– Concerned that a multitude of transportation projects, under the jurisdictions of different agencies, will leave its community idling on the shoulder, a group of Mercer Island residents has formed a new nonprofit to educate citizens and officials and encourage an open dialogue on complex infrastructure issues.   They will launch an online survey to gather real community feedback on pressing transportation needs.

“We need a transportation plan that benefits Mercer Island as well as the region,” said Lori Otto Punke, executive director of Vision Mercer Island. “Traffic is bad and about to get worse, so we formed Vision Mercer Island to give Island residents a forum to share real concerns about how changes to regional transportation systems will impact our community.”

Because of its unique geography, Mercer Island sits in the center of many imminent transportation changes, including construction closures and route modifications on I-90, rerouting buses and Park & Ride traffic, and Sound Transit’s East Link light rail expansion project and the road-level Mercer Island Station. While the goal of these projects is to improve transit availability, the resulting traffic impacts will make it significantly harder for drivers to get on, off and around Mercer Island. This affects not only those who live and work on Mercer Island, but also those who commute and move freight across the critical I-90 corridor.

Vision Mercer Island is forming at a time when input from Mercer Island residents is not only needed, but requested by government officials and agencies. Sound Transit approved a motion to seek more input from Island residents before moving ahead with existing plans for light rail, with King County Executive Dow Constantine and State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, both Sound Transit board members, encouraging King County Metro and the Washington State Department of Transportation, respectively, to participate in the process. The agencies plan to host a series of public meetings and drop-in sessions over the next two months to listen to residents’ concerns.

To encourage real community feedback, Vision Mercer Island will conduct an online anonymous survey of Island residents to gather input on pressing transportation issues. By better understanding community needs and expectations, the Island will be better able to engage in responsible dialogue and create a climate for a transportation plan that supports a strong and vibrant future.

“We like to say that sustainable transportation solutions start here on Mercer Island — and this is a distinct moment in time to highlight the challenges, opportunities, and impacts transportation has on our community,” continued Punke. “Mercer Island has a proud history of creating extraordinary transportation outcomes that benefit our community and greater region alike, and we need to work together to keep that legacy alive now.”

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 www.visionmercerisland.org.

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MEDIA CONTACT

Lori Otto Punke
visionmercerisland@gmail.com
(253)470-6543