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.