Our SR 520 Westside Design A+ is the transit friendly, financially affordable option and was recommended by the SR 520 State Legislative Workgroup by a vote of 12 to 2 (opposed by Reps. Chopp and Pedersen of the 43rd District). A+ is supported by Metro Transit, King County, the University of Washington, five major Eastside cities, the Eastside Transportation Partnership, and many north end Seattle Community Councils. We worked to reduce A+ costs by retaining the current interchange at Montlake Blvd and saving $100 million on the replacement of the Portage Bay Bridge.

One remaining decision is replacement of the Lake Washington Blvd. ramps at a cost of $98m.  Information on the overall impacts of the ramps, in or out, will be included in the WSDOT SR 520 Supplemental EIS, which will be available for Public Review after the first of the year. We need a city-wide public debate on how to make this a “Win/Win” for both improving the future Arboretum and SR 520 inter-modal Transit services. More after the jump…

At a cost of $4.53 billion, our A+ option is under the legislatively set maximum project budget of $4.65 billion. The original Westside 520 2 year mediation proposed the 3 designs A, K and L. Option K (a tunnel under the cut) was $2 billion over budget and L, a diagonal bridge over the cut, was canceled when environmental review agencies said they would not be permitted. K was also rejected because it jammed traffic into a 4-lane tunnel 1500’ long and 150’ wide, with a sharp curve and 8% grade, with transit stuck in mixed traffic. The tunnel ended 20 feet under the Montlake Blvd. NE/Pacific St. NE intersection.  It became a peak-hour jam of vehicles stalled out on the 520 mainline waiting to enter one lane into the tunnel.  Mixed traffic from 520 emerges from 20 feet underground on sloping arterials, which at peak hour today are at Level of Service “F”. After the permits were rejected, K was revised to an M option with a Tube Tunnel, with dredging in the Montlake Cut, and is unlikely to be permitted.  Option M is $1.2 billion over the project cost limit.

At the 11/24 Seattle City Council SR 520 Hearing, the “M” supporters reported that they now want a SR 520 retrofit for the unsafe portions of the corridor and bridge. They argued there was not the money to build any SR 520 option, after 12 years of SR 520 design and financing studies. What the Montlake community supports is delaying until more project money is available. With less driving and revenue from state and federal gas taxes, the delay would increase overall SR 520 Westside project costs. It also would increase the danger of damage from storms or an earthquake to a nearly 50 year old bridge, with leaking pontoons and support columns that were not built to modern earthquake construction standards.

The King County Council  supports compensating  Metro with an ongoing operating subsidy for the loss of direct service to the University District from the two flyer stops to be removed. The flyer stops would have added 70’ to the corridor width/footprint. The rebuilt SR 520 will have two-way center HOV lanes and HOV on and off ramps to and from the Eastside at Montlake, and a direct reversible ramp to the I-5 express lanes. A new 520 East/West bicycle/pedestrian lane will be built on the north side of the bridge. All designs allow for adding width/capacity to the pontoons in the future, if needed, for the addition of light rail. Sound Transit is planning a transfer point at the Pacific Place NE “Triangle” area for bus passengers traveling to and from the proposed UW Link Station.

The Arboretum Foundation supports the removal of the Arboretum ramps.  Metro is opposed to their removal because they claim it would slow northbound transit trips on Montlake Blvd. up to 8 minutes, because auto trips from the south that use the ramps would be diverted to use 23rdE./Montlake Blvd E. and the Montlake Blvd E. 520 entrances.  However,  A+ transit times would still beat the former K and former L’s design’s projected transit performance with the ramps.  I also believe that these concerns can be better and more cheaply addressed by transit priority through the interchange area, while reducing impacts on the Arboretum.

WSDOT appears to support  HOV-3 lanes plus HOT lanes across the bridge to increase the revenue to pay off the 520 bonds and cover a $2.37B deficit on the $4.65B project. Tolling is estimated at $3.50 per trip with transponders. It would increase transit use and reduce SOV trips about 15%. To prevent diversion of trips from SR 520, tolling is needed on I-90. WSDOT could use part of the toll revenue on both bridges to pay off any debt, and help subsidize planned  Metro and Sound Transit operations on SR 520. The tolling decision would be made by the State Transportation Commission. They will need  public involvement to make that toll decision correctly.

As with any major transportation decision around Seattle, there is ongoing politics, since the Westside SR 520 project is located in the House Speaker’s district. Chopp and his constituents haven’t given up promoting the financially costly tunnel in hopes of removing traffic from the Montlake Community (except it won’t).   They would build a new 520 freeway interchange east to McCurdy park property, and north of the Ship Canal into U of W property that was deeded for “educational purposes”. If the Westside SR 520 Design choice for A+ is made on time, at the 2010 session, it will be below or on budget.  I urge your support for A+ and restoration of the Arboretum by removing the 520 ramps during review of the SR 520 SDEIS.

The author was a Washington State Transportation Commissioner from 1973-79, member of the SR520 Translake Study group from 1997-2002, and represented the Ravenna and Bryant neighborhoods in SR520 mediation from 2007-08.

The Legislative workgroup covenes to make its final recommendation at 10 am today in the Sound Transit boardroom.

58 Replies to “Op-ed: A+ is the Transit-Friendly Option for SR520”

  1. The loss of the Montlake Flyer freeway station is a major setback for transit. It’s clear that there is no rail transit on 520 for a long, long time, so this is a bus corridor. Buses serve their riders best when they have high frequency and long hours of operation.

    This design necessitates unnecessary duplication of service by making it impossible for a bus from an Eastside origin to serve downtown Seattle and provide connections/access via the Montlake Flyer station – which both serves bus connections to Capitol Hill and Central District, walking access to Montlake and University Hospital and UW Campus, and bus connections to Ballard, Wallingford, U-District, Greenlake, Ravenna, etc. It serves a lot of functions, and with some creativity there must be a way to retain it.

    Even if there is initially a temporary subsidy, this is a permanent structure, and it is not going to be cost effective or environmentally responsible to send out empty buses, so by definition service levels will be reduced at least during off peak times by this forced split of ridership that needs to access Montlake from that which wants downtown.

    1. Removing the bus stations seems like a major setback in mobility for the west end of the project. It eliminates a great BRT-like system along 520 from Mircosoft to Downtown Seattle, using only freeway stations, that Sound Transit proposed.

      I really hope WSDOT is able to figure something out to put a freeway bus station at Mountlake. It just makes sense, even if it widens the project footprint, to connect 520 and that area via express buses that operate on a major transit corridor like 520.

      Haha, I almost commented that it would eliminate the fastest way to Seattle from the UW but then I forgot about a little pair of tunnels…

    2. I’m also deeply concerned by the lack of a flier stop at Montlake, but post Link I’m wondering if it really makes the most sense for buses to continue to/from downtown versus having routes start/end near Montlake with a transfer to link.

      Especially factoring in congestion, I’m wondering if the trip downtown on Link would be faster even considering the forced transfer.

      There has been a lot of talk about building a “spine” for the regional transit system with Link yet it seems like actually reconfiguring express bus service to use that spine might be problematic. I’d like to see Metro focus more on cross town routes and neighborhoods versus overlapping I-5 and SR 520 service.

      1. Buses from 520 won’t have quick access to the UW/Husky Stadium Link station, and it won’t be a seamless transfer. I believe the closest stop will be on Pacific St, in front of the University Hospital, and it will require cross Montlake Blvd to access Link. I don’t think it was a goal to make trips from the Eastside to downtown efficient to transfer to Link at UW/Husky Stadium – and the major argument why light rail should not be built on 520 was that Link doesn’t have enough capacity to handle Eastside riders to downtown.

      2. Eastsider, you’re right on. While it’s actually a pretty easy transfer – no worse than a bus on 2nd to the DSTT, for instance – Link really isn’t intended to shuttle those people already on buses downtown.

        Nor would most choose to transfer anyway. It would take them less time to stay on the bus, even in bad traffic.

    3. Eastsider, if we do get 520 bus funding from tolls to the tune of $10-20 million a year more than we’re looking at now, I think this won’t be an issue. Keep pushing for that, but don’t go “A+ sucks because there’s no money for transit yet!”

      The legislature can’t look at the smaller things (like transit funding) until they pick between A, K, and L. This is step one. This would be a great time to write your legislators for step 2, but don’t condemn them for not doing something they haven’t had a chance to do yet.

      1. A+ sucks because there’s no light rail or dedicated transit lanes. Why are we trapped in the 1950s?

      2. I don’t think A+ sucks, I think it is the only option that stands a chance of getting built. Neither a tunnel nor an elevated bridge to a Pacific interchange is going to happen – too expesnive and too big an impact.

        What I think sucks is taking away the Montlake flyer stop.

        Let’s be absolulately clear on what is really happening. The width of today’s roadway isn’t being reduced. Today we have four travel lanes, two flyer stops with lanes, and two exits with three lanes (HOV onramp lane in the eastbound direction.) There is a shoulder on the westbound offramp but likely the rest of the design doesn’t meet today’s engineering standards.

        The width of the right of way is being reallocated and the transit flyer stop is being used, either to increase shoulders and lane widths or to create the HOV ramps. My question is, has enough work been done to see if there isn’t a way to retain flyer stops. Can the HOV and/or regular ramps be elevated so that the right of way under them can be used to have the transit stops? There probably is a way to do this that is of minimal cost compared to the other options but retains the functions of the transit stops. If the new 520 had rail, I would not care, but I think 520 is a bus corridor for the next 40 years, and these stops serve a lot of passengers, and I don’t think anyone’s made it a priority to figure out how to preserve them. This should be an engineering problem, and I dont’ think the engineers have been given the job to solve it.

  2. Transit/HOV connections for Option A+ are poor. Buses and HOVs are dumped onto Montlake Blvd and must proceed through several signalized intersections to reach the Link light rail station (at Husky Stadium) and the UW campus.

    What is needed is a new transit/HOV roadway from the west end of the bridge directly to the Montlake/Pacific St. intersection, similar to the Option K corridor. This takes transit and HOV traffic off of Montlake Blvd. perhaps eliminating the need for the second parallel Montlake Bridge, and it reduces cross-lake travel times for transit and HOVs. And because the facility is only for transit and HOvs to/from the east side, it doesn’t add a complex new interchange to the freeway, like Options K and L did.

    Pontoons for the new bridge are being designed to accommodate the later addition of light rail transit, and the new transit/HOV facility I describe would accommodate the rail connection between the floating bridge and the UW campus — which would be the ultimate destination for any east/west rail facility in that corridor.

    1. In my personal opinion the only ramps at Montlake should be for HOV. This would allow for both on and off ramps in each direction. The other option would be to ensure the ramps are aligned in such a way that a bus exiting the WB HOV ramp can get on the WB GP on-ramp and that a bus exiting the EB GP off-ramp can get on the EB HOV ramp. There would also need to be enough room for a turnout and stop on one side or the other at Montlake.

      1. HOV only for Montlake (using the eastside 405 off peak GP access regulations) is the only pattern that makes any sense. At least for WB 520 to Montlake and EB from Montlake to 520. I’m not convinced there even should be Montlake to 520 WB and 520 EB to Montlake exits. How about removing those to narrow the foot print? Nobody really needs to get on the freeway just to cross the Portage Bay bridge and then exit.

        The Arboretum ramps have to go. Eliminating daytime GP access to 520 EB from Montlake will eliminate most of the issue of the current cut through traffic moving over to Montlake. Not only is the traffic through the Arboretum completely at odds with the purpose of the park the additional on ramp creates a dangerous merge and backs up traffic on 520.

        The DEIS says only three houses need to be “taken” to put in the second bridge across the Cut. I don’t see how this could be true and even if it is the remaining neighborhood will be decimated. The goal should be to reduce the number of vehicles crossing the Cut to a number which the current bridge can handle allowing a free flow for transit to connect to and from 520 and Link and to serve Capital Hill.

        The UW has drawn the line on increased vehicle trips to and from the University by strictly enforcing a cap on the amount of parking they provide on campus. Even though campus population continues to expand the number of trips has steadily decreased over the last decade. Time to follow this lead, reduce the number of vehicles and return Montlake (and South Campus) to it’s residents. We’ve invested billions on getting light rail to the UW. Let’s capitalize on that investment.

    2. The Columbia River Crossing project in Portland has two requirements that the 520 project lacks:

      1) Mandatory light rail capability (for Portland’s future 5th light rail line and Vancouver’s 1st)
      2) Greenhouse gas analysis

      Why in the world is Seattle 20 years behind Portland and the extremely conservative Vancouver (Washington)? Designing a new urban highway without light rail capability should not even be considered.

      It’s very possible — almost certain — that Vancouver, WA will have its first complete light rail line before Seattle has light rail to Northgate or Bellevue, even though the Vancouver line hasn’t been designed or funded yet (Portland works much faster in regards to transit).

  3. Hi Virginia, it’s been awhile! Glad you’re still fighting the good fight!
    I agree, it’s the plan with the broadest support and enhances transit across the lake. Waiting for the bridge to collapse is foolish.
    As I recall, when the Lacey Murrow sank(I-90) in the early ’90’s, the final bid for replacement pontoons and anchors was something like 80 mil. I know prices have increased a lot since then, and this is a much larger project, but all the extra’s (mostly lids and walls to mitigate noise) have driven the project through the roof.
    Every dollar spent on a mega project like this is a dollar ‘unavailable’ for the simple things government spends money on. I wish they could scale down the noise mitigation, as these are not the same ecconomic good times, as when Mercer was getting their lids.

  4. The Arboretum Foundation supports the removal of the Arboretum ramps. Metro is opposed to their removal because they claim it would slow northbound transit trips on Montlake Blvd. up to 8 minutes, because auto trips from the south that use the ramps would be diverted to use 23rdE./Montlake Blvd E. and the Montlake Blvd E. 520 entrances.

    No matter what is ultimately done about the Western approach to 520, the Arboretum ramps have to go. The traffic on Lake Washington Boulevard splits the Arboretum in half and adds noise and pollution to what should be a tranquil park. In addition when Lake Washington Boulevard isn’t backed up with traffic drivers tend to speed with little regard for either pedestrians crossing or bicycles using the roadway. In fact they seem to resent the intrusion on “their” road.

    1. The lack of regard and resentment goes both ways on Lake Washington Blvd. Cyclists also show it towards riders.

      That said, I agree the ramps have to go.

      Why not abandon the road and put a link segment through it, down MLK.

    2. Lake Washington Blvd is an arterial through the Arboretum. Even without the ramps to SR 520, I think you’ll still see plenty of traffic there coming out of Madison Park and other points downstream heading towards SR 520 and north Seattle.

      1. Not if 520 access is restricted to HOV and transit only. Montlake/23rd will be free flowing enough that there’s no need to divert. They you make the light cycles long enough that nobody uses that as a cut through route any more.

  5. Adding the pedestrian/bicycle path at long last fixes the issue of bicycling to the UW and South Lake Union from Redmond, Kirkland & North Bellevue. If going to the freeway traffic is also removed from the Arboretum it will be a pleasant ride once again!

    As for light rail crossing this bridge, my bet is that this bridge will be replaced before that becomes a priority. Instead Light Rail will go to Everett, Lynnwood, Renton, West Seattle, White Center, Ballard, Lakewood, Bothell, Woodenville, Kirkland, Issaquah all before anyone says, hey we should put another line across the lake. These floating bridges seem to last 50 years or so, and I think I just outlined at least 50 years of track to be laid at the current rate of 15 miles/decade.

    1. Portland built 47.4 miles in the past decade, Vancouver built 24.5 miles. It will be pretty sad if keep only building 15 miles per decade.

      It reminds me of Bart Simpson getting placed in the special class at school – “We’re behind everyone else, so to catch up, we’re going slower? Kookoo!”

      1. Seattle is building higher quality rail than Portland, which is more expensive per mile. The extensive underground sections eliminate the slowdowns of traffic crossings. Stations in neighborhood centers gain more ridership than those next to freeways.

        I haven’t seen the new Vancouver line but my local friend says that while it’s mainly underground, it’s also badly located. By going down Cambie Street rather than Granville, it stops in rich single-family neighborhoods whose people will never ride the train, and it stops ten blocks from commercial destinations so people who would ride the train have to transfer to a bus or do a long walk.

      2. Regarding Vancouver: it may be badly located, but it’s getting 100,000 boardings a day anyway. We should be so lucky.

        (And yes, I know we will be above 100,000 once University Link is finished. And yes, I know time and TOD in the Rainier Valley will bring that segment’s ridership up, too.)

      3. misha, the rail we’re building is more than twice the capacity of Portland’s – and from ST2 vote to completion, we’ll build faster than they will.

    2. Re “…floating bridges seem to last 50 years or so…” Please keep in mind that floating bridges keep getting better with each generation. Not the least of which is because of the high-tech coatings on the rebar, so it takes much longer for internal decay to weaken the concrete. If the second-generation foating bridge lasts 50 years, I’d expect a fourth-generation replacement bridge to last at least 75 years.

      1. I think it depends a bit on the bridge. The Evergreen point and original Hood Canal bridge seem to have had serious design life issues. The pontoons on the original Lacey V. Murrow were in good enough shape that they were going to be re-used before the contractor sunk them. The Homer Hadley is estimated to have at least a 70 year design lifetime if not longer. I suspect a new 520 will be a 70 to 100 year structure.

      2. The Hood Canal bridge was the third try and the worse execution. For some reason we’re taking the worse aspect of that design, the bridge on stilts, and applying it to the new 520. Face it, all the floating bridges are fero-cement barges rafted together. People have been making fero-cement sail boats for decades and they’re still a POS. The only good thing about floating bridges is that they are cheap. You get what you pay for.

      3. Bernie, the bridge on stilts will make it safer for WSDOT to maintain, safer to drive on during a storm, and facilitate future changes (like adding light rail) much better than a design that has traffic driving down on the pontoons like today. Just ask ST about the headaches they are going to have to deal with to get light rail built on I-90.

  6. A+ is easily the worst option for both transit and cars.

    For transit, the Montlake flyer stops are lost, and the link station at Husky Stadium is isolated from cross-lake travel. The Montlake corridor (including bridges) will continue to be a congested mess with multiple lanes of cars, unfriendly to bikes and pedestrians.

    For drivers, Montlake will still be extremely congested, and will be subject to bridge openings and other delays. HOV access will not be provided beyond what is available now.

    Similar to the Viaduct, 520 is a once in a lifetime chance to improve the area. Let’s do it right and improve transit accessibility, make Montlake a better corridor for peds/bikes, and yes, even improve things for drivers. A+ hurts all of the above.

    1. Ryan,

      A+ doesn’t have a huge amount of transit bells and whistles, but the other options are worse.

      K, L, and M have buses mixed in with general traffic on the giant offramp to the stadium, so it’s not like it’s a magical transit ROW. More importantly A+ is the cheapest. If the State had to go and find another $1-2 billion for one of the other options, it wouldn’t come from the gas tax, it’d come from other funding authority like TBDs, and those are things we could use for a transit project of much greater consequence than cutting a couple of minutes of bus travel time.

      1. Please scroll up to my comment at 2009-12-08 10:38:37 — There are other options that have not been investigated. Narrow the footprint of the A+ facilities and add a transit/HOV-only offramp to the stadium.

    1. Chopp is speaker of the state house, and all members, including him, serve two years terms, and are up for re-election in November of every even-numbered year.

  7. The lack of flyer stations is a loss but I’m not sure it’s a major loss. People can transfer at Evergreen Point or the Bellevue Transit Center as easily as Montlake. It’s unpleasant waiting at Montlake with cars whizzing by you, just like it’s unpleasant waiting at the Evergreen Point or Rainier freeway stations. If you get off at Montlake, you have to walk up the stairs and to the bus stop, and then wait up to 30 minutes just to ride less than a mile to the UW or U-district. Just long enough to be irritating. I would rather look at what transit alternatives we can provide that may be better than the flyer station.

    The main beneficiaries of the flyer station are those who want a one-seat ride without transfering at Evergreen Point. But it has been generally shown that frequent service on a few corridors with transfers provides more service overall than parallel one-seat trips. So as long as there’s frequent service from both downtown and the UW to somewhere on the eastside throughout the day, the wait time at Evergreen Point would be insignificant.

    1. If you get off at Montlake, you have to walk up the stairs and to the bus stop, and then wait up to 30 minutes just to ride less than a mile to the UW or U-district.

      What are you talking about. It’s a 10-15 minute walk to the UW which is what the vast majority of people who get off at Montlake do. The only reason I can see people getting a transfer on Montlake would be to head south to Capitol Hill. Once Link starts operation they’ll be able to walk over to the stadium and be at the Capitol Hill station in about 15 minutes. That beats the heck out of waiting 1/2 an hour for a bus. And when North Link gets built the flyer stop becomes even more useful.

      1. It seems to be a pretty popular stop on the 545. I think they should find a way to keep it. It’s not a fantastic location, and what is really needed is a light rail connection across 520 but let’s not hold our breath for that.

      2. It’d be better if the 542 ran nights and weekends too. Sound Transit’s 2009 SIP amendment says it’s 15-min peak and 30-min midday/early evening on weekdays. Outside that it seems you’d have to transfer from the 545 at Evergreen Point to a UW-bound bus. Anyone planning to transfer to the 43 or 48 would have to make 2 transfers, one on each side of the bridge.

        It looks like having a stop Westbound at the top of the transit-only off-ramp would work as the buses could continue (roughly) straight across Montlake onto the Westbound on-ramp. Eastbound looks like the real problem given the on-ramp location. I haven’t been able to find a high resolution version of the A+ plan, but from the older option A diagram it might be possible to double the width of the planned Westbound transit off-ramp to add a transit on-ramp to the Eastbound HOV, accessible to traffic heading North on Montlake. Then a bus heading East could exit in the GP lanes to Montlake, turn left, and then turn right to re-enter the Eastbound HOV. If the Montlake lid were extended there could be room for a transit stop there, directly across from the one planned for Westbound. I’m picturing something like the Direct HOV lanes that were included in the new interchange in Option L.

        A less expensive but much more inconvenient method would be to have transit exit in the GP lanes to Montlake, turn left, then do a U-turn at the next light from the left turn (to WB-520) lanes. This would have them pointed back South on Montlake, where they could stop at the planned transit stop before making a sharp right onto the EB-520 on-ramp. I don’t know if the big articulated buses could do that U-turn, though, and it’d be awful for traffic flow.

        It’s just too bad there’s not room to build center transit stations like the ones planned for Evergreen Point.

      3. Transit frequency on 23rd/Montlake should be increased in any case, especially once U-Link opens. That will be an important feeder route for the station. If there is a flyer stop then providing a connection for those not willing to walk between the station and 520 is gravy. I certainly hope there is very frequent transit service between the UW station and the U District once U-Link opens.

      4. “What are you talking about. It’s a 10-15 minute walk to the UW which is what the vast majority of people who get off at Montlake do.”

        I have found it annoying the occasional times I’ve used it. When I was going to the U, I was glad I lived in locations where I could take the 271 or 272 and avoid the flyer stop.

      5. Keep in mind that people going to the University area have many different destinations: any classroom, the dorms, or University Way. Some of these destinations are much further than others. They are all accessible from a university-bound bus. But if your route happens to stop at the flyer stop, you have to add 10-20 minutes to your trip to transfer or walk.

        The 545 may be popular at the flyer stop, but how many of those people would rather be on a bus that went into the university area? It would make a significant difference to their commutes (at least 10 minutes X 2 every round trip).

  8. Plan “A+” is in many ways a step backwards for transit, bicycles and pedestrians both in Montlake and at the UW. Five years ago, Virginia and many others (myself included) were part of a broad Seattle coalition opposing a similar plan. Even for the fixed budget of the project, we can certainly do much better for transit than this plan. Here are just some of the reasons it’s anything BUT friendly to transit:

    – A+ simply removes bus access on the mainline of the highway, so there is zero access anywhere in the Montlake-UW area to 355 buses a day on the highway itself. The other plans proposed the same thing, but that decision is simply the wrong one for transit. How is it “transit friendly” to widen the Portage Bay crossing to 7 lanes while removing access to the transit that runs on these new lanes?

    – The plan relies on drawbridges that open from 10-90 times a day, causing unpredictable delays to three bus “rapid” transit lines (UW to Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) that take as long as the journey from Westlake to UW on Link. The problem is in “off-peak” times — but the BRT lines, and connecting Link service, and the institutions, commerce and urban centers they serve are not just 9-5 destinations. That’s not an easy problem to fix, but it’s not exactly “transit-friendly” and the second drawbridge doesn’t fix this.

    – The plan proposes to spend $81M we don’t have to construct another drawbridge, but fails to do the low-cost, easy improvements that will actually help transit users, like making a better transit connection between bus and rail at the UW, a connection mandated by city policy and state law. How “transit-friendly” is it to spend $4.65 billion on this project on top of all the money we’re spending on Link — and fail to address this? The other plans have the same flaw and we need to better. There are various straightforward options to make this connection better, but A+ proposes none of them.

    – The original proponents of the Plan A, including Virginia, favor the “A prime” plan that removes the Lake Washington Blvd. ramps, which Metro says would cause 8 minute delays for northbound local buses in peak periods. The ramps in this plan are in some kind of indeterminate quantum state; they are both there and not there at the same time depending on when, whom and how you ask. I think everyone but the community proponents believes they are actually there in the plan. Which is it? Everybody wants to do right by the Arboretum, but those few who are active proponents of this plan have been seduced by the potential of eliminating ramps that the powers that be have zero intention of removing. If the effort fails, other important things have been traded away for naught. If the effort somehow succeeds, transit will suffer. Not a great choice. The “A+” plan does not do right by the Arboretum. The footprint in the Arboretum is far too big as well.

    You can dub it the transit-friendly, green, world peace and nirvana A double-plus plan, but marketing spin doesn’t make this plan work better for transit. This plan is opposed by every community along the highway for a host of reasons. My community (Montlake) is among them. We care profoundly about transit performance in this area, and we have been and continue to be willing to make numerous sacrifices for the greater good, but we are unwilling to make sacrifices that are actually counterproductive.

    We can and must do better for transit. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the design decisions have really been made. All we have here is a proposal on paper; not a single permit has been issued, not a single public comment collected from the as-yet unpublished SDEIS coming out at the end of the year, which still won’t cover the A+ option as designed because A+ is too new. A project like this is subject to many regulations the state legislature does not control. The project has suffered from a lack of public attention and involvement. It’s time to get immersed in the details and make sure we don’t make the same kinds of mistakes in the 21st century that we made in the 20th.

    And Virginia, please work with me on this. This plan that has come out of the multi-year contentious process we both have participated in is not really transit-friendly and doesn’t reflect the values either of us has brought to the table on behalf of our communities. We’re not done yet.

    1. What do you think of a couple of “transit friendly” options that sort of jump out at me?:
      1. Eliminate all GP access at Montlake and Lake Washington Boulevard making the remaining ramps HOV only. or
      2. Swap general purpose Eastbound off-ramp and Westbound on-ramp with HOV ramps (no non-HOV access between Montlake and I-5).

      I believe both would drop the traffic volumes on Montlake Boulevard (though keeping non-HOV access to/from the Eastside would probably still overload the surface streets).

      The HOV ramps could be constructed in such a way as to allow buses to exit the HOV lanes, cross Montlake, then enter the HOV lanes again. A turnout area and stop could be constructed as part of the ramp structure near the Montlake crossing (I believe there are other transit freeway stops in the area that work similarly)

      1. HOV-only access in the Montlake area (partial, complete, time-of-day, etc.) has been proposed before and has been evaluated by WSDOT. According to WSDOT it would solve some problems in Montlake, but create major problems on I-5, 45th St., Olive Way and elsewhere. A more extensive and systemic solution would be required to make this work. We could aggressively toll every highway and make them all flow like a dream without adding any lanes, but diversion to local streets becomes a huge problem unless we do something about those too, and those local streets are carrying a lot of transit trips.

        I appreciate the creativity behind the suggestion. Keep thinking…

      2. Just why “according to WSDOT” did it create these major problems? Did they do traffic modeling? What assumptions did they use? My guess, if they did anything at all was to take all trips current accessing the Montlake exit and increase the volume on I-5 and 45th. That’s flawed because a large number of vehicle trips will be eliminated. The UW has proven they can, through transit decrease the number of vehicle trips even while the campus population is increasing. And they plan to continue to do so. Olive Way? Now they’re just making things up. An SOV driver who would have gotten off at Montlake isn’t going to take Olive Way instead.

        The 520 project already has as a component to connect with the I-5 express lanes northbound. There is an exit from the express lanes just north of the Ship Canal to the U district, no? Did they include this in their modeling? How about taking the billion or two saved from eliminating major portions of the interchange at Montlake and a second bridge over the Cut and applying some of that money to other arterials?

      3. Bernie, the only connection from 520 to the express lanes is a reversible connection to/from the SOUTH.

        A lot of those trips at Montlake aren’t going to campus. They’re going to Ravenna, Wedgwood, Laurelhurst, Sand Point, and non-campus destinations in the U-District. Also Capitol Hill and points south, though to a lesser degree. Of the campus trips, I bet a lot are from people visiting the hospital. I don’t see the UW trip reduction programs having a lot of effect on these trips.

    2. Jonathan, I’m still waiting on the “better option” plan you kept saying you were working on.

      1. We will continue to be constructive in addition to critical for as long as it takes to ensure a decent outcome from this project. Some good ideas have already been suggested here — such as restoring the transit access for buses on the mainline, and getting bus stops closer to the rail station at UW. Other big pieces remain unresolved for now. What would be most helpful now is to enumerate the issues with the A+ plan that we can hope to address going forward. I will keep this blog fully informed as things progress; it’s a great resource.

  9. [deleted, ad-hominem]

    The data demonstrates that A Plus is hands down the most transit friendly option for all the people who pass through or live in the area. That data is available to all.

    The points made about a new drawbridge making things worse is just silly. I don’t know anyone planning to take down the historic drawbridge on Montlake. Jonathan offer a tunnel alternative that has proven to be worse for transit, traffic overall, worse for the environment – yet costs $2 billion more. (Personally, I’d rather spend that amount of money on light rail across 520 than a fish killing loopy tunnel that makes transit a less desirable alternative than cars.)

    I’m with Virginia on this one. The new Mayor, the entire City Council and the state legislature ought to consider this an easy choice. Most everybody is impacted by this decision. It is time to get moving. The opponents are now resorting to distortions to engage people and they are wasting our time and our money doing it.

    And just remember: Montlake and surrounding communities are improved by the option moving forward now.

    1. Thanks for the link. I posted this comment over there:

      Keep the Montlake exit and make it Transit/HOV only from 7AM to 7PM. Build the exit just like the Totem Lake flyer stop. This will keep the footprint only eight lanes wide and eliminate the huge wasted space caused by the clover leaf. If you do away with the break down lane built into the rest of the corridor the exit and flyer stop need be no wider than the bridge deck. Dress up the new overpass with plantings keeping the boulevard feel of Montlake between 520 and the cut. This would eliminate the costly lid proposed in option A+. The ramps returning to 520 from the flyer stop would be down hill to aid buses getting back up to merge speed. Unloading level with Montlake would eliminate the stairs for transit riders making the stop ADA compliant.

    2. The PI ran an article yesterday as well, New 520 bridge plan may be a no go for House speaker. I don’t think my political leanings could possibly be farther from Frank Chopp but I seem to agree with him more often than not on road projects. From a right wingnut car driving Republican… Stop building stupid roads and start being smart about road building! I guess it’s just the tight wad conservative in me but I’m sick of uber expensive highway projects that are worse than worthless.

  10. My guess is that once Northgate Station is open, ST and Metro will expect everyone riding to the eastside via 520 will take light rail to Husky Stadium Station, then transfer to one of the eastside buses. So, the Northgate-eastside and downtown-eastside bus service would be ended. At that point, there would be no buses using the HOV lanes from I-5 to Montlake.

    Would it solve a few problem by making the outside lane the HOV lane? Buses doing the spin entrance to head east from Montlake wouldn’t need a special entrance or to cross the GP lanes, while cars would be in an outside spin lane merging with the GP lane. Buses coming off of 520 to head north would get the current GP exit, while a GP exit could be built from the inside lane on 520 to Montlake Blvd where the HOV exit was going to be, at minimal cost.

    Then, the buses wouldn’t have to leave the HOV lane and cross through the GP lanes to access Yarrow Point and Hunts Point bus stops.

    Just thoughts.

  11. Mr. Speaker supports the just-retrofit-it-for-safety position, and I support Mr. Speaker’s position on this issue. Light rail from UW to the eastside will happen some day, but not in the next five year. It will probably be much sooner than 40 years, though. If we are patient to allow a year or two of ORCA data to collect, we will have a much better idea where new light rail lines ought to go. (Maybe something seldom discussed like light rail to Laurelhurst, Sandpoint, then across to downtown Kirkland might end up being the path of greatest ridership.)

    I think the primary concern here is to get more funding for long-term transit options and reduce funding for competing SOV capacity. Mr. Speaker has laid out the best immediate option in that regard.

    A few million dollars from tolls for a few temporary bus routes is chump change, as far as I’m concerned.

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