Crews spray down the deck of the new, temporary westbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard to keep it moist in the hot weather before placing wet burlap to let the concrete cure. (Photo – WSDOT)
On Friday, July 10 the House approved the final agreement on Transportation. I’m happy to have supported it, though I have some concerns. (You always do when it’s a compromise between groups with very different views about the appropriate set of investments.)
The SR 520 bridge will be finished. There is $1.6 billion in the package for the remaining part of the West landing. There is also funding for a new SR 520 interchange at 148th Ave. to support major developments in the Overlake area. This should help alleviate a lot of the slowdowns in that area and allow more density so that we have less sprawl. Also included is planning for a new interchange on SR 520 at 124th Ave. that will allow the Spring District in Bellevue to grow and have rational access to the freeway.
A new I-405 lane from Bellevue to Renton, plus lots of work on the SR 167 interchange.
Sound Transit III authorized.
This package is the largest investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure ever in our state. There are some super Eastside projects I’ll write about once I deconstruct the whole package.
I made some remarks at the Bellevue Rotary yesterday that seem to have been misinterpreted by some people, so I’m clarifying:
Passing a transportation package this session is incredibly important for the Puget Sound region. I support a well-designed package.
Starting in January King County Metro will start reducing service to make up for an expiring car tab fee the state authorized them to charge several years ago. You can see the proposed reductions here. The Eastside cuts will result in significantly increased congestion as commuters shift to single-occupancy cars.
The 520 bridge project will stop planning for the next phase. They will lay off the design team, making it difficult to re-start the project, costing millions and adding years of delay. If no package is passed we will have a bridge that has 6 lanes all the way to Foster island, which turns out to not be all that helpful. The exit to Montlake will be dysfunctional and highly congested as buses and HOVs cross three lanes of traffic to get off and on. The vulnerable parts of the bridge will remain – the hollow pillars on the west approach to Montlake and the Portage Bay Viaduct, and could fail in an earthquake or by being struck by a barge. (This happened a few years ago and did serious damage to one of the pillars.)
The Seattle metro area has some of the worst congestion in the nation. In 2012 our area was the 4th worst in the nation, according to the Tom-Tom data company. (Link here.) This is a deterrent to businesses locating here, and fixing it has been a major ask of the Boeing Company, Microsoft, and a host of other major employers. As I’m sure you have figured out by now it’s also quite painful to live through.
I support a large transportation investment package to improve this situation and will vote for a package that makes sense.
However, I don’t support just ANY transportation package – it needs to be good for the central Puget Sound. (Other parts of the state care about the impact on their area, which makes putting together a package an incredibly difficult balancing act.) A good package will have a number of key elements: Continue reading “Transportation”
A couple of people have suggested quite publicly that we reconsider the decision to put light rail on the I-90 bridge. I sent this as an email reply to Dave Thomas, who publishes a reliably interesting newsletter (http://pugetsoundliberals.org/) in response to an article in the most recent edition (#198.)
520 doesn’t work as the initial light rail route across Lake Washington for a variety of reasons. Personally, I’d love to have a train running across 520 and have tried to negotiate to get this. I’ve been convinced it’s not the right thing to do first. The Eastside legislative delegation has negotiated that the new bridge will have the capacity for, and that the design will not preclude, light rail in the future when it makes sense. The short-term reasons to stay with the I-90 route:
You would have to dig extensive (expensive) tunnels to get anywhere interesting. You can’t easily hook up with the train through the U-District – it’s too deep to get to from Lake Washington. Current train technology doesn’t climb hills as steep as it would take to get to I-5. You’d have to go under, and then under Lake Union.
There isn’t enough capacity on the north-south train on the west side to take all the commuters from the Eastside into downtown Seattle even if you let them off at Husky Stadium and had them take the elevator down.
The design has been done and agreed to for years. Re-opening it is a disaster. I would like a north-south route on the Eastside. Nevertheless, this region needs to learn how to make decisions and execute on them. We cannot keep re-negotiating deals.
Bellevue is a critical job center, and growing much faster (in jobs) than most other parts of the Eastside. This is mostly by design, and it has to be the center of the train route so that we get the density of both housing and jobs we need around the stations.
The environmental sensitivity is largely if you cross the Mercer Slough at I-90 to get to the BNSF route, which isn’t going to happen. The train will almost certainly run up Bellevue Way and over 112th and into downtown Bellevue. (People will argue with me over this, but the preferred route by both Sound Transit and the City of Bellevue is the Bellevue Way one.)
I agree that it looks like a good idea on first glance. Once you spend some time looking at it you start to understand why the decisions were made the way they were. If all you care about is vehicle capacity you might want to leave I-90 alone, and that’s (I believe) where the suggestion came from. A functional system runs over I-90 initially.
As a region we have made this decision, and many other decisions that hinge on it, over and over again for the last decade. We should just execute.