Early last week, the state’s Joint Transportation Committee (meaning House and Senate combined) met to start discussing exactly how much money they plan to ask Santa Claus for this year. TVW finally has the video posted.

As we’ve covered before, getting light rail over I-90 means the state government has to give up the reversible express lanes. The law now says that the state must come up with a valuation for those lanes by December 1st.

The state (especially Speaker Chopp) wants as much as they can get from those lanes. We’re watching carefully to be ready if they decide to overstep their rights to the highway. The US DOT has been very transit-friendly as of late, and I don’t think they’d take kindly to the state trying to charge a transit agency for a transit-intended project paid for almost entirely by federal dollars.

I encourage you to watch the video!
[We’re not going to embed it, because it has a tendency to freeze up in Firefox. — Editor]

20 Replies to “The Coming Months: I-90 and the JTC”

  1. Says the man getting at least 2 billion dollars worth of underground Link infastructure in his district. That Chopp is something else. I hope USDOT goes after the JTC.

      1. USDOT is already involved. FTA is the lead agency for the NEPA process and FHWA is a cooperating agency. The issue was described in the DEIS that they both reviewed.

      2. Google for [FHWA “East Link DEIS comments”] to find one set of USDOT comments on Sound Transit’s scheme for floating light rail.

        “FHWA believes that the analysis on highway operations and safety is too focused on the transit element and does not go into enough depth and detail on the impacts to the highway·impacts resulting from this project.”

      3. Seriously.

        “We would like copies ofthe report on the full-scale load test and the planning-level analysis of the feasibility of the rail expansion joint necessary for construction and operation of light rail on the 1-90 floating bridge.”

        They haven’t even looked at the depth and detail that already exists yet. Interesting how you omit that part, isn’t it, John?

      4. All of the engineering analysis is here:

        http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/partners/irt/MaterialsSources/default.htm

        The analysis showed that LRT loading combined with the 1-year storm loads produced stresses that were 97% of the allowable stresses becoming the controlling case for operational limitations of LRT.

        Cutting it a bit close I think considering we seem to have 100 year storms every ten years of so. And if you’ve ever been on a boat at the end of Seafair you know that 3-5′ waves are the rule which exceeds the wind driven loading used in the analysis.

        The other troubling part to me is that the bridge is going to last 100 years because WSDOT and ST say so. Paula Hammond was just on TVW Impact claiming the new 520 was going to be a 50 year bridge (about right based on all of our experience) and WSDOT design standards for normal bridges is 70 years. There’s no accounting for how high point loading from rail might shorten bridge life or how the pattern of increasingly strict design standards have always shortened the projections for useful life. They do point out that this will require substantial seismic upgrades; not because of the stress from rail but just because of a change in standards.

        The rail expansion joints aren’t a big deal. All they do is allow the iron rails to slide back and forth to match the movement of the bridge. They have nothing to do with the structure of the bridge. The bridge expansion joints that join the approaches to the floating section are a different story. That’s the part they just replaced. It’s not really clear if those will need to be replaced again for rail but I don’t think so.

        The IRT also points out that the two big killers of floating bridges are storms and construction projects and suggest a contingency plan in case we sink the I-90 again.

      5. Bernie, 97 percent of “allowable” doesn’t mean “3% away from failure.” Allowable means what is safely allowable, with a reasonable margin of safety on top. Using 100% of allowable design load is safe and OK.

      6. No, read the report and the engineering analysis. 100% was the limit at which structural degradation was expected. It doesn’t mean catastrophic failure but it does mean a shortened life span and increased maintenance. The whole lifespan issue hasn’t really been addressed.

  2. Chopp is no better than Dino Rossi or various area road advocates who keep trying to find a way to divert the Sound Transit taxing authority to road building. In particular the 520 replacement project.

    Then again maybe Chopp’s real goal isn’t to grab Sound Transit’s piggy bank but to kill East Link once and for all. If the JTC demands an unreasonable amount for the I-90 center roadway and it sticks East Link is dead.

    1. There’s no if – it won’t stick. They know that, too, USDOT would eventually get involved.

  3. “state trying to charge a transit agency for a transit-intended project paid for almost entirely by federal dollars”

    This is just a tax shifting dodge. By making ST pay the state for the use of Federally funded state property, we will be taking tax money from the ST taxing district and giving it to the state’s general fund. (or highway fund whatever..)

    In some ways it makes sense because the HOV lanes are “owned” by the residents of Yakima, and Eastern Washington as much as they are “owned” by the ST taxing district residents. And in other ways it’s just another tax shift. It’s all our money both ways, it’s just that ST taxing district residents didn’t vote to give it to Eastern Washington…. or at least that’s what they thought.

    As for it going to Highway projects, there are plenty of bridges in this state that should have routine maintenance that could use this money. In case anybody on this forum didn’t notice, general revenue collections are down, teachers are being laid off, health care for the poor is being cut. All of our tax money goes into this pot one way or another.

    1. Except that ST is paying the bulk of the cost of the replacement capacity — the two-way HOV project.

      ST spends money on HOV projects all the time which are then given to the State. It seems like an odd time to suddenly start accounting this way.

    2. Actually, those HOV lanes are ‘owned’ by the feds. They paid for 93%, and there are strings attached to that payment.

      1. Just because federal funds pay for something doesn’t mean they own it. Remember, those federal dollars come from the States in the first place. They don’t just print up all of the money ;-)

        You’re right that there are “strings” attach but it’s going to be an interesting battle. BTW, TV Washington will be broadcasting the JTC meeting at several times Friday through Sunday (channel 23 on Comcast) for those that would rather watch it on TV than streaming video.

      2. Actually, there are very specific laws regarding the use by RTAs of facilities paid for by the federal government. It may really not be the state’s decision. Check out 23 CFR 810.212, for example.

      3. Not to mention there was a specific agreement WRT completing I-90 signed by the feds, the state, and various local governments that provided for converting the I-90 center roadway to high capacity transit.

        Besides the federal dollars come with federal strings, one of which is the Feds get to claim up to 93% of anything the state gets for selling various rights related to a federally funded highway project.

      4. It doesn’t matter that they signed off on the NEPA documentation unless the terms of the MOA were incorporated into the Record of Decision. I didn’t see anything about future conversion of the center roadway in the Two-way Transit and HOV ROD. I haven’t looked at the earlier I-90 ROD in a long time, so I’m not sure what it says about this.

  4. What law requires ST to pay the State anything? WSDOT has the right to give ST the transitway agreement at no charge (just like Seattle gave SMP the transitway agreement at no charge). This is bullshit – no way should ST pay anything to the State for the transitway agreement absent some legal requirement.

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