A problem for replacing SR 520?

August 7, 2008 by · Comments Off on A problem for replacing SR 520?
Filed under: Noteworthy Columns 

Over at Horse’s Ass, the inimitable David Goldstein fillets I-985 in a sarcastic “endorsement.” Along the way, he makes an intriguing point:

But my favorite provision in I-985, the one that earns my endorsement, is the one that requires that tolls only be used to pay for the construction of the particular section of freeway or bridge on which they’re levied… Let’s be clear: the 520 floating bridge is going to be replaced before it sinks into the lake (or perhaps, shortly thereafter)… And all the current financing plans heavily rely on tolling both the 520 and I-90 bridges to pay for it. Remove I-90 tolls from the equation, and we not only lose a big chunk of federal funds that were predicated on tolling I-90, we also make it impossible to put any substantial toll on 520 without shifting the bulk of the traffic to its toll-free alternative.

This means we’re going to have to find a billion or so dollars elsewhere to pay for the new 520 bridge, and that money is going to come at the expense of other DOT projects throughout the region and the state.


The thing is, I-985 is confusing and tangled enough that it might still be possible for clever accountants to fund the proposed “congestion relief account” with toll revenue and then use the “congestion relief account” to fund the 520 replacement. So it could end up being a shell game of sorts, though it’s not entirely clear. And in a way that’s really one of the problems: there’s a real danger that I-985 will make transportation planning more bureaucratic and opaque, rather than clearer and more efficient.

Read Goldy’s entire post here.

I-985: A mess for westbound SR 520

August 7, 2008 by · Comments Off on I-985: A mess for westbound SR 520
Filed under: Noteworthy Columns 

The Seattle P-I’s Joel Connelly nails one of the many bad, unintended consequences of I-985:

Traveling Route 520 at 6:20 Friday, I found stop-and-go traffic from 84th Avenue Northeast to the bridge. The state Transportation Department’s rush-hour map shows even greater congestion much of the time. 

By throwing open the express lanes, I-985 would expand stop-and-go traffic from two lanes to three and defeat the whole purpose of getting people into buses and van pools.

But it may be even worse than Connelly thinks. Merging creates congestion. Right now, the narrowing of SR-520 westbound from 3 lanes to 2, right before the floating bridge, isn’t a major problem — but only because it’s an HOV-3 lane. There are few enough vehicles that the merge doesn’t gum up traffic. But I-985 would turn the 3rd lane into an HOV-2 lane during rush hour, and a general purpuose lane the rest of the time. Adding more vehicles to the merging lane will absolutely hammer westbound traffic — leading to even longer backups to the 520 bridge, and not just at rush hour.

Times op-ed debunks Eyman

August 6, 2008 by · Comments Off on Times op-ed debunks Eyman
Filed under: Noteworthy Columns 

This is a great piece worth reading.

Of 22 major recommendations in Sonntag’s report, only synchronization of traffic lights is addressed in I-985.

The audit doesn’t recommend limiting tolls on Seattle’s bridges or high-occupancy toll lanes (HOTs), or opening HOV lanes in off-peak hours. It doesn’t deal with freeway artwork or red-light cameras.

Eyman’s initiative assumes car-generated congestion can be fixed cost-free without other forms of transportation. One of Sonntag’s four general recommendations is “increasing efforts to have people use carpools, transit and telecommuting.” Yet funds in Eyman’s RTC account are barred from buses, rail or park-and-ride.