An SR-520 alignment overburdens tunnel capacity. (Sound Transit)
An SR-520 alignment overburdens tunnel capacity. (Sound Transit)

Yesterday, we broke word that Susan Hutchison favors putting light rail across SR-520. She re-iterated this position at last night’s debate. This isn’t the first time someone has held this position, but that makes the suggestion no less tired. Hutchison would do very well to read our past research on the subject because her current position is simply irresponsible.

  • “We should build light rail on the new 520 with a designated lane”

But in June of last year, we showed why light rail has to cross I-90 first: The University Link tunnels cannot handle Eastside passenger traffic. Light rail across SR-520 would lead to significant overcrowding and poor service performance unless we build another expensive tunnel to downtown. In January of last year, we noted that plans to eliminate future capacity for light rail from the SR-520 bridge saved $400 million dollars — a number Hutchison will somehow have to recover. The engineering challenges of going from the elevated 520 span to the underground Husky Stadium light rail station are significant and difficult. For these reasons, Sound Transit notes that light rail across SR-520 is much more expensive. Most importantly, the current alignment is voter approved: In November of last year, an overwhelming 62% of the voters in King County passed a plan that put light rail across I-90.

  • “We should not take lanes away from I-90 for light rail”

But in June of 2007, we showed that I-90 does not lose lanes after light rail. And we showed the corridor actually gains capacity from new HOV lanes in each direction. In March, we pointed out that the federal government funded our center lanes expressly to be converted to rail transit. The state has borrowed those lanes for decades.

  • “In fact, [building light rail across I-90] is a violation of the 18th amendment which says roads money can’t be used for any other purpose”

But we reported in July that transit agencies have purchased roads right-of-way in the past before without issue. WSDOT is working with Sound Transit to value the center lanes so Sound Transit can purchase them. Sound Transit is funding the two-way HOV lanes across I-90, and that work can be used as credit toward the purchase. The state is not giving Sound Transit the lanes.

More after the jump…

Over the summer, this blog helped push the state legislature to fund two-way HOV lanes as a precursor to I-90’s light rail crossing. Our actions resulted in “a deluge of emails set off by bloggers,” according to one legislator. The message was clear: Do not delay East Link. We cannot wait. Moving light rail to a new SR-520 span is not only impossible without significant cost increases as well as major compromises in service quality, it would push East Link’s completion date back by years — if it were to even be finished.

The Sound Transit Board has identified a preferred alignment for East Link. The environmental impact process is very far along. Any sort of major disruption for political reasons would be dangerous at this stage, and could very well lead to the collapse of the entire East Link project.

The post was updated at 10:30am to add more clarity about the technical problems with putting light rail across SR-520.

81 Replies to “The Cross-Lake Battle That Already Ended”

  1. Even if East Link trains terminated at UW and forced a transfer, you’d have crush loaded trains emptying out into already crush-loaded trains. There’s no way to make this work without a new downtown tunnel.

    1. Which they’ll propose and then balk at the cost estimates, or not propose and balk at negative impacts on the performance of the existing system. at that point an “independent, grass-roots” third party will file a voter initiative to scuttle the project. Sound Transit will be blamed for the whole debacle for their inefficiency or ineptitude, and mass transit in Puget Sound will be set back by at least 20 years.

      1. “But in June of 2007, we showed that I-90 does not lose lanes after light rail. And we showed the corridor actually gains capacity from new HOV lanes in each direction.”

        Hutchison and Kemper don’t use people to evaluate capacity. They count tires.

      2. The decision on light rail on I-90 has been made, we shall see if it works out. FWIW, the ‘feasibility’ reports for the I-90 rail conversion have planned cost overrun written all over them.

        I too supported a 520 Light Rail phasing, designing a bridge to light rail spec is not a invalid argument. Arguments about North link not being able to handle Eastbound traffic aren’t credible as presented here, though they would likely work much better with the Montlake Cut option (K?).

        At this point though the question is should 520 **ever** have light rail? Will King County make that investment in its own future?

  2. John I think you give her too little credit.

    Knowing the dishonest tactics that her and her allies use she is just using this as a way to look pro light rail, while in reality effectively killing east side light rail. She knows all the facts you outlined above and that is exactly why she said light rail should go across SR-520.

    This is just one in a list if intentionally misleading and dishonest half truths that has been a mainstay of her election.

    1. Agreed. This looks similar to the “I support BRT …… but not really” arguments we hear from the anti-transit-types. She knows damn well that we can’t build Link over 520 and it’s her attempt at trying to shut the thing down. It wouldn’t be a good political move for her to just come out and say she’s against it. Clearly the region wants it; we voted for it. This way she looks pro-transit while still finding ways to undermine the project.

    2. Adam,

      You may be right, but I’m glad John didn’t engage in speculation on her motives or her subjective mental attitude to light rail. It’s best to simply point out what the implications of her policy prescriptions are.

      1. I agree, Martin. Why ascribe her beliefs to malice when plain ignorance is just as damaging?

      2. Very true Martin. The last few weeks I have been caught up in everything and I suppose I assume the worst of intentions all the time now.

  3. So in the worst case, we don’t build East Side Rail… build more North/South Rail and let the Eastsiders sit in buses!…Go to West Seattle and Burien..get to Tacoma and Everett. Run a spur over to Bothell… There are many alternatives to this stupid argument. Run a spur to Renton and out to Maple Valley, run the spur through South Center, go to Ballard. There are plenty of places that need fast transit that aren’t Bellevue.

    I can understand her persepective about “losing” lanes. If we built a new bridge which never had those lanes for anything but light rail then commuters wouldn’t be “losing” something they never had.

    1. As a Bellevue resident who makes heavy use of both Metro and ST buses, I object to you saying Bellevue doesn’t need fast transit.

      My 230 for example (bringing me from my home on NE 8th to Microsoft HQ) is getting noticibly busier (not quite crush load, but there’s been standees quite a few times this week).

      Take a look at the 550 and you’ll see, yes there’s a reason the bus comes every 15 all day.

    2. Under ST’s policy of subarea equity, funding raised in the East King subarea must be spent in the East King subarea. If Hutchison/KF manage to kill LR on the Eastside, that funding would still need to be spent on the Eastside – it couldn’t be diverted to North King or South King for more LR.

      LR across I-90 is a voter approved plan with elements of R8-A under construction right now. The good news is that Hutchison/KF have an uphill fight in killing East Link or moving it to SR520. The bad news is that they are more than willing to fight that fight and that could delay and/or drive up ST2 costs.

      There is no net loss of lanes under the current ST2 plans for LR on I-90. It’s a lie.

    3. Her perspective about ‘losing’ lanes isn’t a perspective at all – it’s a lie. For the two express lanes “lost” (and they were built for transit in the first place, I might add), two HOV lanes are being added at Sound Transit’s expense. There’s no loss.

      1. I agree Ben, but would it be accurate to say that Sound Transit would be taking over two general purpose lanes to convert into the new HOV lanes? If so, it would be reducing capacity on the bridge but certainly NOT for car pool drivers.

      2. It’s more than just painting, too – in most cases, they’re widening the roadway as well.

      3. No, it would not be accurate to say that.

        I-90 today = six GP lanes (three in each direction) + two reversible HOV lanes (usable by MI residents) = eight total lanes.

        I-90 in the future = six GP lanes + two HOV lanes (one in each direction, usable by MI residents) = eight total lanes. PLUS LINK.

        Said another way: I-90 today– dial-up; I-90 tommorrow– broadband.

      4. No reduced capacity, however I believe shoulders are lost as well as lanes narrowed – this does have costs and capacity effects, hopefully they’ve been thought through and mitigated as part of the project budget.

        The big dig (pardon the pun) on the Eastlink is cost per rider and it’s relative priority in the region. In ST1 the eastside put their priority on increased bus service, continuing that course might have been wiser. That said, it’s all water under the bridge at this point…

      5. No, that would not be accurate.

        Do you know why they’re calling it “R8”? It’s because what will be removed is the left side breakdown lane. Presumably it won’t be completely removed, but certainly radically narrowed. The right side breakdown lane will have to be narrowed some too, and in some places the general purpose driving lanes will be a bit narrower.

        No general traffic lane will be converted to HOV at any point in the crossing. The bridges will be similar to I-5 through downtown where HOV lanes were added south of Denny Way.

      6. I always wondered why they called it R8 and now I know – six lanes plus two HOV lanes makes for 8 lanes total. No one explained that before!


      7. It would not be “accurate to say that Sound Transit would be taking over two general purpose lanes to convert into new HOV lanes.” ST is taking two HOV lanes in the center roadway and moving them to the outer roadway so that the center lanes can be used for LR (as was the original intent when the bridge was built).

        There is no taking of lanes and not even any conversion of GP lanes into HOV lanes. ST would be converting two single direction reversible HOV lanes into a pair of bi-directional lanes, but the new configuration actually works better for transit given the region’s recent development pattern.

    4. Sound Transit has already spent millions of dollars planning for East Link. Shelving the project at this point would be extremely irresponsible both because of the sunk costs and the future costs of delaying effective transit to the eastside. People aren’t going to stop commuting across the lake just because there isn’t a light rail line on I-90, and their trips will add to even more congestion that we could have siphoned away with rail.

  4. Since she claims there are amendment 18 problems with using the I-90 bridge for Link which had 90% of the cost paid by the Federal government, how is the situation any different with the 520 bridge? 520 is being built mostly with state gas tax money, in order to avoid amendment 18 problems Sound Transit would have to pay to build the portion of the bridge that is used for rail. Since 520 is far from fully funded I see this as an attempt not only to delay/kill East Link but to use ST taxing authority to help pay for rebuilding 520. This is the same thinking that leads some think WSDOT should charge ST in the billions for the I-90 center lanes. Ignoring of course that under Federal law the feds can demand 90% of whatever payment ST makes to WSDOT.

  5. To understand this, you need to see Hutchison in light of her recent “job” experience. As manager of the Seattle Opera, her job was to balance the books, and the main way for her to do that was to solicit large donations- very large, such that only millionaires can give them. She has gone on to manage a private foundation, in which position she can award the Seattle Opera grants. She can also, and has, award the Discovery Institute with grants.

    Hutchison’s milieu, then, is millionaires who can spend money. They are comfortable with her, she is comfortable with them, and that’s not going to change. Hutchison as become a broker for millions in donations and is assured a nicely paid position somewhere for the rest of her life, as long as the millionaires are comfortable with her.

    Hutchison is a stealth candidate, pretending to be for light rail when she is actually against it. As King Co exec she would simply let KF do the heavy lifting. She would continue to say she was for light rail while KF would take the anti-rail lawsuits all the way to the Supreme Court, a process that could easily take 4-5 years.

    The funny thing here would be the number of “moderates” who are fooled into supporting Hutchison in spite of the fact that she opposes what they are for. It’s a striking comment on how easily those at the top are gulled by someone who seems to fit their social set.

  6. John,

    This post reminds me yet again why I love this blog. Succinct, rational, articulate, intelligent. I think you (and Ben last June) have presented an open-and-shut case.

  7. In agreeing with Mr. Parast, I’d also like to add the sneaking suspicion I have that Hutchison’s vaunted Bellevue board member to ST will probably be Kemper Freeman.

    1. I’d doubt that. Kemper has a certain comfort zone. Public service is not it. He’ll gladly pump out money to anyone who would have the power to make changes he wants, but I think he feels too vulnerable in an arena like the ST board.

      1. I meant to say “… on the Bellevue City Council …”

        You know an edit function would be a really nifty feature (hint, hint).

      1. Something to keep in mind is that the King County Council must ratify all appointments made by the county exec to the Sound Transit board. My guess is that they would allow one skeptic, but balk if Hutchison tried obviously to stack the board with anti-rail advocates.

      2. With only 5 Ds and some of them sometimes squishy in they support for Sound Transit, it’s not hard to see Susan Hutchison appointees slipping by with 4 R votes and 1 D vote, especially if that 1 D was promised something in return.

  8. Offtopic: Does anyone know what kind of construction is going on over on the Mercer side of the I-90 Floating Bridge? I bike past it several mornings a week as part of my daily exercise route, and I can’t quite figure out what the big hole in the ground, nor the giant barge, are for.


    1. Mercer Island is replacing a sewer line that’s buried just offshore… all the construction is related to that.

      1. Wow offshore sewer line? That must be costing a fortune. Why didn’t they just build it on land?

  9. I like how Susan claims to be fiscally responsible, but is okay with throwing away the tens of millions of dollars already spent planning East Link and 520 all in order to make her buddy Kemper Freeman happy.

  10. While we’re talking about ignorance and inconsistency, did anybody catch
    the ridiculous article in the Tacoma News Tribune yesterday about the Point Defiance Bypass? The article hit the usual NIMBY talking points against rail…with some rather peculiar arguments about how Amtrak is too fast (?!?!) to run through Lakewood. It then ends with a sentence that should be in The Onion…

    “However, the city doesn’t want residents to confuse its concerns over the bypass with its desire for Sound Transit commuter rail service. Those trains move about half the speed of Amtrak trains.”

    So now slowness is the criterion for transit excellence? What terrible writing.

    1. That’s hysterical – when has anyone EVER complained before that Amtrak trains are too fast!

  11. Eastlink should be built across I-90. Plans and funding are already there. It should not be debated again. In addition to serving the Bellevue route, there should eventually be a branch to BCC-Eastgate-Issaquah.

    Having said that, the new 520 bridge should ALSO be designed for light rail, and there needs to be a long range plan to bring light rail to the 520 corridor.

    The primary reason that light rail needs to come to the 520 corridor is that there are too many origins/destinations that are along or north of 520, for which service via I-90 is inefficient and too time-consuming. In Seattle, that’s UW and housing north of the ship canal. On the Eastside, that’s Kirkland, Redmond, etc. A 520 crossing will complement an I-90 crossing.

    If the capacity is not there on the existing Link alignment, then perhaps the 520 Link route should go through U District and then either Eastlake, South Lake Union, maybe Seattle Center, towards downtown (and West Seattle?) – or via Wallingford, Fremont, Queen Anne to downtown.

    But it is not right to conclude that because the north Link route is at capacity, therefore people from Kirkland or Redmond who want to to go to the U-District or further north must ride via I-90, or will only get buses. A 520 route should be made part of the long range plan – in addition to I-90.

    1. Well said, Eastsider. Just as the I-90 center roadway was dedicated to future high capacity transit, whatever transit facility a new 520 bridge has should also be dedicated to future high capacity transit.

      The volumes aren’t there at this time to justify laying rails, but they may be at some time in the future.

      The biggest problem with any sort of fixed guideway transit in the 520 corridor is Portage Bay. In order to route the transitway through the campus it has to cross the Bay and there is no way that people are going to agree to an elevated structure tall enough to pass sailboats there.

      That means it will have to drop down from the bridge level into a tunnel that curves to the north about where the existing stub off ramp to Lake Washington Boulevard begins. To accommodate future rail, one of two things must be done. Either the HOV lanes must be built to the north of both east and westbound general traffic lanes or if they are in the center, space for the curved tunnel to pass under the westbound lanes must be left clear of supports when the new bridge is built. That would mean a fairly long clear span because of the wide radius required for transit at speed. To do anything else would bar future construction of the necessary rail tunnel.

      Your idea of looping around the west side of Lake Union is interesting and would probably be popular with Eastsiders wanting an all-rail ride to Seattle Center or Belltown destination. Yes, it would take three or four minutes longer than a tunnel parallel to University Link, but it would open up many destinations in South Queen Anne and the Denny Regrade to direct Link operation. It would have a station under the University station and run west under Pacific. This would give the opportunity for a “southwest campus” station somewhere around 40th and 12th NE to serve that dense area and could also be the start of east-west service to Ballard, too. A station in central Wallingford would quickly give rise to a sizable Urban Village populated by Microsofties (assuming they stay around, of course).

      1. They should just take away lanes from the 520 bridge and put light rail on it in the future, then force a transfer at UW Station, because they’ve decided on one of the options that would have a bridge over Union Bay ending right at UW Station, right? The other routes that you mentioned shouldn’t be used for this because any line going from Downtown to Fremont and Wallingford should continue up north to Phinney and Greenwood, not curve around and go over the 520 bridge. People who are going downtown from Redmond and Bellevue can still take East Link, the 520 route would be for people going to the UW, Northgate, etc.

      2. They should just take away lanes from the 520 bridge and put light rail on it in the future, then force a transfer at UW Station, because they’ve decided on one of the options that would have a bridge over Union Bay ending right at UW Station, right? The other routes that you mentioned shouldn’t be used for this because any line going from Downtown to Fremont and Wallingford should continue up north to Phinney and Greenwood, not curve around and go over the 520 bridge. People who are going downtown from Redmond and Bellevue can still take East Link, the 520 route would be for people going to the UW, Northgate, etc.

      3. I should have said “Union Bay”. Alex Jonlin implicitly corrected me without making a big deal of it. Thanks.

  12. Light rail will make its first, and perhaps only, crossing of Lake Washington on I-90, for all the reasons others have stated. Now, concerning SR 520:

    I’m impressed by the thoughtful details in the comment from Anandakos on the challenges and opportunities in routing light rail from the Eastside to UW. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

    Expandability for future “HCT” is already part of the program for the new SR 520 floating bridge. As a Montlake resident who has often worked on the Eastside and commuted on the 545, if all else were equal I would personally prefer to ride light rail than any bus. However, there are some huge and possibly insurmountable obstacles to actually building light rail in the SR 520 corridor, beyond paying for it, beyond politics, beyond how the Sound Transit Board or my neighborhood or other neighborhoods might feel, and beyond environmental impacts. SR 520 is a great transit corridor. Ridership would be there… That’s not the issue either.

    The biggest challenges are basically summed up as, where would it go on the west side, and where would it go on the Eastside, and how would it get there, and how many transfers will it take to complete a trip?

    Let’s start on the Seattle side.

    How do you get under or across the Montlake Cut? How about a bridge?

    It would be lunacy to spend billions on a light rail line that crosses a drawbridge, which takes longer to open and close than it will take to ride light rail from UW to Westlake, and there is no good spot to site a new drawbridge anyway. A fixed bridge would have to have between 70 and 100 foot clearance for boats and it would create a large superstructure in the Arboretum / Marsh Island area. It would also soar into the UW campus, which the UW might have an opinion about. From there it could dive underground — but then where would it go. Sound Transit was not able to get permission to tunnel near the Astronomy/Physics building at 15th/Pacific due to impacts to research there. There’s no room to put it on the surface. I can’t see where an elevated line would go. Challenges abound.

    How about tunneling under the Montlake Cut instead?

    A bored tunnel would have to be as deep as the planned ULink tunnel because you need a tunnel diameter or two between the top of the tunnel and any water overhead. Without going into the engineering specifics, there just isn’t room on dry land to get down to a bored tunnel with anything close to a navigable grade for rail (or any other vehicle.) If anyone can figure out how to route a bored tunnel under there, I would love to hear it.

    This means you are in a shallow cut-and-cover tunnel to UW (an immersed tube), and that is exactly what we are proposing in the context of the SR 520 planning process, to connect express bus service to the UW light rail station. Let’s continue the thought experiment and think about where this tunnel would go after you get through the SW campus area somehow.

    If this second tunnel winds around the west end of Lake Union, which makes the most sense for connecting Fremont and Ballard to UW and the Eastside both, then it’s going to be too indirect and time consuming for people headed from the Eastside to downtown, and that means you need to continue to run buses downtown, and that means you still need HOV lanes all the way to I-5 (which we need anyway, by current state law), and that, in turn, means you have 6 lanes plus light rail through the Arboretum, and that is a super wide corridor through Class A wetlands that will cost a vast fortune we don’t have.

    OK, then, how about the Eastside?

    The right of way constraints on the Eastside are not quite as severe, and the topography nowhere near as challenging, but it’s still very tough to figure out where you would route a light rail line, just in terms of the transit planning.

    There is a constellation of park and rides served by buses today., but light rail cannot go to all of them. The biggest transit destinations today are Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland. Unless you construct more than one line, or have a very indirect routing, you have to pick one of these. How about Redmond, say. You either run the rail line straight out to Redmond, bypassing all the new development in Bel-Red, or you swing south and capture that en route to Redmond. But you are still looking at a transfer for anyone headed to downtown Bellevue or Kirkland, which are significant destinations. You could build a light rail line parallel to I-405 in the BNSF ROW, but we are then looking at two transfers for a lot of trips, at enormous expense, and it’s just not clear how that will ever pencil out. We are having trouble figuring out how to pay for a tunnel in downtown Bellevue and an extension to downtown Redmond; is it realistic to expect two additional lines on the Eastside in the next 20 years?

    If anyone has a solution for all these challenges, I’d love to hear it. Until then, we are looking at frequent express bus service to handle the heavy transit demand on the SR 520 corridor. We’re working on solutions that get that bus service to the UW quickly and reliably, both for the direct benefits to the UW and also for the many people who will use Link to access transit running on SR 520, and vice versa.

    1. On the westside it should go over the Pacific Interchange bridge and either force a transfer at UW or continue to the U District (Brooklyn) to force a transfer there. The line from UW to the west needs to continue all the way to Ballard, and the line from downtown to Fremont and Wallingford needs to continue north to Phinney, Greenwood, etc.
      On the Eastside, I think you could have three separate spurs, one to Bellevue and on via South Bellevue to Issaquah, one to Redmond, and one to Kirkland/UW Bothell. They could each come every 7.5-10 minutes at peak times, which is about at capacity, and come every 15 min or so off-peak.
      My full, crazy Link map is here: link. Maybe I’ll see that when I’m 70.

    2. On the westside it should go over the Pacific Interchange bridge and either force a transfer at UW or continue to the U District (Brooklyn) to force a transfer there. The line from UW to the west needs to continue all the way to Ballard, and the line from downtown to Fremont and Wallingford needs to continue north to Phinney, Greenwood, etc.
      On the Eastside, I think you could have three separate spurs, one to Bellevue and on via South Bellevue to Issaquah, one to Redmond, and one to Kirkland/UW Bothell. They could each come every 7.5-10 minutes at peak times, which is about at capacity, and come every 15 min or so off-peak.
      My full, crazy Link map is here: link. Maybe I’ll see that when I’m 70.

    3. Johnathan,

      In what I wrote I was assuming that East Link as now proposed would have been built before the 520 crossing was converted to rail. So northeast Eastsiders would not need to take buses to downtown. From the South Kirkland P&R even with two UW stations, one in Wallingford, and two in the Seattle Center/Belltown area this would be faster than a bus in traffic on SR 520. No matter what they do with the lake crossing it will still dump into I-5 at Roanoke. I was just noting these issues so that future conversion of HOV to rail is not foreclosed by geometry issues. And I was envisioning a trench and drop it tunnel a la BART across Portage Bay.

      From your post it looks as if they have been considered and any design will ensure conversion.

      So far as the loop around Lake Union, I honestly think Eastsider’s idea is brilliant. It allows the line to serve multiple purposes in addition to the Eastside-UW trip. Remember that Link does not serve the Denny Regrade/Belltown/Seattle Center/South Queen Anne area, and there is a lot of employment and population throughout it. Those people need a direct ride to the University and Eastside if it can be provided in a cost-effective manner. It would also provide the crossing of the ship canal for any northwest service that might be provided by Link and help justify whatever second rail transitway is needed through the Seattle CBD.

      And, as someone noted in another post a few weeks back, if a transit line under Pacific Avenue would mess up the physics experiments, I’m sure that ST and some benefactors could find 50 million to give the Department new digs farther from the track.

      You’re right that most people from anywhere east of Bel-Square would not choose to ride this considerably more circuitous route with more stations to downtown Seattle, but see below for a possible exception. Folks in the South Kirkland area would be happy to avoid taking a bus, as would those in the SE Campus area, Wallingford, and South Queen Anne. None of those places separately could support rail transit (well, maybe the SE Campus could support a streetcar to downtown but that’s small beer compared to this), but strung together with the UW destination they could work.

      As a matter of fact, I’ve been thinking about the Eastside end of such a route too. Assuming that the transitway is built to the north of the main lanes it should continue on to South Kirkland P&R, then turn south along 405 to a junction with Central Link somewhere just east of the downtown station. It would share trackage through downtown Bellevue to the SE Main station and then run up the middle of the Lake Hills Connector to where it swings north, go under the cemetery and in tunnel down 145th Place SE to BCC and Eastgate and then on to Issaquah via the currently proposed route.

      The eastside system would look like one of those Christian fishes eating Darwin on the back of cars. The Bellevue CBD would be at the base of the tail and UW where the cross is.

      There are several examples of such multiply crossing lines in Washington and New York; it vastly increases the number of destinations efficiently reachable with a single transfer.

      The fastest service to downtown Seattle for Issaquah and Eastgate passengers would admittedly require a transfer, but they would have the option of a single-seat ride by staying on the train for the loop through UW. In any case, I honestly believe that in the long run it makes the most sense to center eastside service on the Bellevue CBD, rather than focusing on commuter service to downtown Seattle. Obviously commuters to Seattle are and will continue to be important, but by the time any such line is built the Bellevue CBD will be relatively more important for Eastsiders.

      Certainly the junction just south of SE Main station might be made into a wye by joining west to south and north to east for direct rush-hour Seattle CBD trains. If there is any possibility that this idea of using the Lake Hills ROW might happen in the future, provision for the junction by stacking the tracks south of the Main station should be included when East Link is built.

      This provides direct Bellevue CBD access from the I-90 corridor via the UW trains and puts transit through a developable area of Bellevue that’s going to be bypassed as now proposed. Best of all, it removes any future wye to East Link from the confines of the I-90 roadway environs.

      I think it will be very difficult to provide such a wye between the freeway and P&R because the vertical change needed on one arm of it would be quite constrained by the need to thread it among the complex road interchange. North of the P&R the station stop at South Bellevue would still be required and the line would have to cross the Mercer Slough nature preserve.

      In response to the other posts I’m not sure that there will ever be sufficient ridership north of South Kirkland P&R to support a Link level of service, but perhaps some sort of tram along the railroad right of way and into the Bellevue CBD would be appropriate. Folks headed to Seattle would transfer at the South Kirkland station.

      Grant that through routing to Eastgate instead of Redmond would also necessitate a transfer on trips between Redmond and UW unless the wyes are constructed, diving into the Bellevue CBD is worth it.

  13. Road warrior and Kemperite George Kargianis is one guy who is advising Hutchison. Cheryl Pflug is another. Here’s a Times story about their views on an $10 billion 405 widening project (’02 dollars). $4 billion to start wasn’t enough for them!

    That $4 billion total won’t do the job, a majority of committee members agreed yesterday. They passed a resolution calling for King, Pierce and Snohomish county officials to make sure the full $7.5 billion cost of widening I-405 is raised. The three counties will decide what to put in the transportation package, which also will include funding for the Alaskan Way Viaduct and other key local projects, and whether to submit it to voters this fall or next year.

    I-405 committee members, who spent 2 1/2 years developing the freeway expansion plan, said financing it in segments wouldn’t solve the massive congestion on the highway.

    The amount of money in the two ballot packages “clearly isn’t enough,” said committee Chairman George Kargianis, also a member of the state Transportation Commission.

    Funding only half the needed amount will mean “we’ve sort of lost our direction and lost our momentum,” he said.

    Without full funding for the expansion, “We have set ourselves up to fail,” said Rep. Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley, another committee member.

  14. Since when do you need to transfer trains because the trains switch tracks, The trains coming down 520 can just continue into the tunnel to Seattle, can they not? It may be as busy as the El here in Chicago, but it still works, quite well, there are very few delays and they are only ever a few seconds long.

    1. The problem is that they need very small headways going from Downtown Seattle to Northgate, so there will not be space in that tunnel for an extra line.

    2. There is no way to solve the geometry problem, as Johnathan noted. The cross lake structure west of the floating portion will be about thirty feet in the air if the current structure is a reasonable guide. University Link is about 100 feet below water level at the Husky Stadium station because it will have just crossed under the Montlake Cut. That 130′ would require at least a mile between the beginning of the downward grade on the bridge structure and the junction with University Link.

      And what alexjonlin said. There’s no room in the University Link schedule for trains from the east side.

  15. It is logically inconsistent that we are saying you cannot build light rail on SR-520 because University Link does not have capacity, when the proposal is to spend $4 billion on the road bridge which dumps cars onto I-5 which does not have capacity either. So it is OK to spend money on roads that have bottlenecks but not on trains?

    1. We’re not saying you “can’t” build light rail on 520, we’re saying that I-90 is a much better choice, if you’re going to do just one.

      1. Why 14 traffic lanes on two bridges that are five miles apart but only one light rail crossing? Esp. if the bridge is being built from scratch and that has to be the cheapest time to install rail as part of the same project.

      1. 2.) I’d like to see at least one lane each direction connect (probably via a short tunnel) to Eastlake and the elimination of the 520 westbound to I-5 southbound merge. I’d also promote HOV lane access only at Montlake. There’s already good access to 10th but it doesn’t get used too much now. That would likely change and need to be addressed. Likewise the University Bridge, which is already crowded would see more traffic and something would likely need to be done along that route into the U district.

  16. Has anyone nfigured out what happends to East Link during Seafair when the Blue Angels are in town (assuming that they are still coming by the time this gets built, which who knows)? Will they just shut down the light rail for 90 minutes at a time?

    1. The answer is simple on a variety of levels: safety, noise pollution, crowd control, etc, etc.
      Move the Blues to McCord.

    2. Presumably I-90 gets shut down for the Blue Angels because of the risk of drivers hitting each other while trying to watch the jets. With Link, you only have one driver who has to pay attention, so it shouldn’t be a problem. It seems like it would be simple to close I-90 to cars but not to trains.

  17. What does that map mean anyway? It appears to show two lines next to each other, one overcrowded and the other underutilized. But how can that be? Seattle-UW, Seattle-Eastside, and Seattle-Northgate are all high-traffic trips. So where are the underutilized trains? Surely there won’t be any trains from Northgate to downtown that don’t stop at the UW, as the right line seems to imply.

      1. What makes you think that? According the SEIS for Northgate projected boardings for 2030 are 21,000 and Bellevue projected boardings are 44,000-48,000. Not all Bellevue boardings are going downtown but a significant amount of Northgate boardings are only going as far as the U District.

      2. I said Northgate-downtown. You have to add all the U-Link segment riders. If all the Eastside to DT Seattle traffic is going in the same direction you’d have crush loads.

      3. U district to downtown is entirely different than Northgate to downtown. I don’t know what you mean by “if all the Eastside traffic to DT Seattle is going in the same direction”. Not all of the U District DT Seattle is going in the same direction. I think in both cases it’s pretty bidirectional. Hence the so call “reverse commute” that has SR-520 clogged both directions in the mornings and far worse now westbound in the evenings.

      4. U district to downtown is entirely different than Northgate to downtown

        I’m not sure why you’re being obtuse about this. Clearly it’s not “entirely different”, but one component of the ng-dt route.

        The most congested part of the system is UW-Downtown. If you have Eastsiders headed downtown all going via 520 they’re adding further load to that part.

      5. I’m not being obtuse, I’m trying to be precise. In the context of adding eastside riders to Link at UW you can’t just take Montlake to DT numbers and add all East Link boardings. For instance everyone that lives on Capitol Hill and commutes to Microsoft or Bellevue would be reversing there comute from U-Links peak direction (avoiding the DSTT). Of all the East Link riders crossing the bridge you have to subtract those who’s final destination was the U District. Then you also have the people boarding at Montlake and points north who are trying to get to the eastside.

        I just don’t see a huge demand on Link of people trying to commute from the U District and Northgate to points south of I-90. In contrast, by putting the entrance/exit valve north of the area of highest ridership I think it’s quite likely that flow would be more evenly balanced because you siphon off all of the eastside trying to get to the U District and points north and all of the U District to Northgate traffic trying to cross the lake.

      6. My intuition on this is that to/from DT Seattle dwarfs all other flows, so all the mitigating factors you mention don’t help the core problem.

      7. That’s a given and why we have so many stations there. But looking at the cross lake traffic “to and from” is very much bidirectional at all times of the day. If it weren’t then changing the reversible lanes on I-90 to being bi-directional would be a total disaster.

        Capital Hill is not a huge jobs destination and people living there more and more are trying to get to jobs on the eastside. The group commuting to down town will still do so but the net effect of moving East Link to 520 would have been to reduce the number of riders on the train in the DSTT. People on the eastside and trying to commute across the lake are largely trying to get to jobs DT but some (and I don’t think it insignificant are trying to get to the U District and points north of DT. With East Link on I-90 all of those people come into downtown and all of the trains will move through the DSTT and the tunnel from DT to the U District. If the eastside trains connect at Montlake they would go to Northgate and then return to DT before reversing in SODO . The result is no difference in trains through the DT and Capitol Hill tunnels but you’ve siphoned of a good portion of the people. And actually, if you maintained a crossover at Montlake you could fine tune the capacity vs demand even more.

      8. Really, things are not bidirectional. Comparing car traffic to transit traffic isn’t scientific. Things are spread out on the Eastside — and harder to reach efficiently via transit. Things are not spread out Downtown. It is much easier, in other words, to take trains and buses into Downtown than to use them to exit the city toward your job. That’s why you have the capacity limitations at the UW stadium stop.

        I think the burden of proof is on you to illustrate why Sound Transit is wrong through more concrete evidence rather than anecdotal examples of what you feel would happen. I mean, are we really supposed to take “common sense” over an actual analysis of ridership patterns?

        Forcing a transfer to reach the primary destination of East Link riders would be frustrating. Reaching the station from the 520’s height would be a serious technical challenge. A route that reaches Downtown Bellevue is not going to have the speed of the 545.

        520 makes sense for an eventual line that goes toward Wallingford/Fremont/Ballard, sure. But at that point you’re going to have East Link serving a lot of riders heading into Downtown, avoiding the serious congestion issues we’re discussing in this thread.

      9. Bernie,

        It’s true that the Eastside people to into the DSTT either way, but the point is they’re sharing capacity with the South Link people instead of North Link. South Link is using less capacity, if for no other reason than it runs partially at-grade. That’s the whole point we’ve been making.

      10. But it doesn’t matter. All of the eastside trains are going through the tunnel either way. Total number of trains is unaffected irregardless of which route they take. East Link can not add more demand than they supply because all the trains these people arrive on continue to DT. It doesn’t matter if they bypass UW, stop at UW and continue directly DT or go north and return to downtown. There’s no way the lack of capacity issue holds. In fact (if there is a stop at UW) some number of people will disembark for destinations in the U District and north and easy demand on the DSTT.

        Now, the connections to Central Link would most certainly be considerably more challenging. There’s lots of options and none are easy or cheap. That’s a different discussion. But, the options would be entirely different if 520 had been included in the DEIS from the beginning. What we’re left with is… it’s impossible but 520 is rail compatible. I have common sense disconnect with that.

      11. Bernie, I don’t know if we need a new map or something.

        The Northgate trains are going to run every 2-3 minutes. Since East Link and Rainier Valley have at-grade segments they’re never going to run any faster than 6 minutes. An obvious solution is to have every other southbound train either go East or continue South.

        Capacity isn’t just people per train, it’s also number of trains.

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