MERCER ISLAND, Wash. -- Drivers to and from Mercer Island may no longer be able to use Interstate 90's HOV lanes once Sound Transit installs its East Link light rail.
The surprising determination came in a letter from the Federal Highway Administration to city officials in early August, calling the current practice illegal, and indicating the U.S. Department of Transportation "does not possess legal authority" to allow it to continue.
Currently, drivers to Mercer Island are allowed to use the HOV/express center lanes on I-90, but must get off on the island. It's part of a compromise city officials reached with the state and federal government back in 1976.
"The feds coming out at this moment, saying 'you can't do that', is a contradiction to everything they've already agreed to," commented former Mayor Elliot Newman, who also helped design I-90 in the 1970s.
Critics believe if drivers cannot access the HOV/express access lanes, traffic will spill onto city streets ill-prepared for extra vehicles.
Mercer Island officials declined to comment Tuesday, citing ongoing negotiations with the Federal Highway Administration and WSDOT.
Copyright 2016 KING