Mercer Island: A History of Responsible Transportation Leadership

Mercer Island has a proud history of working together to deliver extraordinary outcomes on complex transportation challenges. These successes come from an involved community committed to innovation, the same community that can contribute to a win-win transportation plan today.

FerryEarly Ferry System

In the early days, steam ferries were the lifeline that connected Mercer Island to the surrounding region, with boats such as the Dawn and Fortuna shuttling residents to communities across the water in every direction.

East Channel BridgeFirst East Channel Bridge

In the 1920s, Island residents rose to the opportunities of a growing economy and successfully petitioned Olympia, King County, and Washington, D.C. to build a bridge that made passage from the Island to the mainland more accessible. The East Channel Bridge was opened in November of 1923, connecting Mercer Island to Seattle via Renton.

Lake Washington BridgeLake Washington Floating Bridge to Seattle

In 1940, Islanders celebrated the opening of the first connection directly to Seattle when the Lake Washington Floating Bridge opened. At the time, this long-awaited, vital pathway to Seattle was the largest floating structure ever built.

i90Expansion of I-90

In the 1960s, discussions began again to build the next highway design to significantly expand I-90. As part of that planning process, Islanders fought hard to make sure the route through Mercer Island preserved, protected, and enhanced its special environs. It was this expansion that truly showcased how the spirit of Mercer Island could create win-win transportation solutions.

The initial I-90 plans called for a massive 50-foot high elevated structure, similar in style to the Alaska Way Viaduct, running 14 lanes of traffic as wide as a football field straight through the heart of our community.

As a community, Mercer Island turned the plan around, bringing the widely-acclaimed Lid/HOV deal to the table instead. This extraordinary outcome also brought the benefits of exclusive HOV lane access to those commuting on and off the island, regardless of residential status, creating convenient passage to teachers, service workers, retailers, doctors, shoppers, and many more. It enhanced parks, reduced noise pollution, and kept bridges and tunnels safe with state-of-the-art technologies. These important features have been invaluable to Mercer Island residents, visitors, and the region.

Now is a distinct moment in time for Mercer Island to come together again to create transportation plans we can be proud of for decades to come. Sustainable transportation solutions start here.