As reported by multiple outlets, the City of Seattle and House Speaker Frank Chopp appear to have shifted their opposition to the SR520 plan, with less emphasis on unworkable highway tunnels under the cut, instead pushing for the HOV lane to become transit-only. The Stranger claims they’ll ask for light rail tracks on the bridge in anticipation of Link operations across the bridge:
Sources tell us that city leaders will soon release plans for a set of specific requests. Among them, the sources say, the city wants: only four lanes dedicated to traffic and the other two lanes dedicated to transit only, light rail tracks laid on the bridge for future use, no ramp leading to the Arboretum, and a smaller footprint through the Montlake neighborhood. This layout could include a transit-lane connection from 520 to the north side of the ship canal.
More after the jump.
Converting HOV lanes to transit-only is one those ideal-vs-practical fights that easily divides the pro-transit community. Personally, I’d say that if HOV volumes are likely to be high enough to impede bus service, then it’s time to either kick them out or ramp it up to HOV-4, HOV-5, or whatever is necessary to decongest it. That’s ultimately an empirical question.
On the other hand, making the lane transit-only lets you put the HOV access ramp in the lane because there is no through traffic except transit. This would not only reduce the footprint through the neighborhood but allow restoration of the Montlake Flyer stop in the plan.
As for light rail tracks, I’m obviously in favor of more rail. However, I’m a little skeptical of SR520 as a high-priority future expansion so I’m concerned this investment might end up having to be redone anyway by the time we get to it. But that’s really a subject for a whole different post.
Lastly, I’d like to think the “transit lane to the north side” is a lane on Montlake Blvd. itself, not some sort of unworkable flyover/tunnel to get buses directly from the left lane on 520 into the Husky Stadium parking lot.
In related news, the legislature is considering removal of the ability of cities to block permits for major highway projects. According to my Olympia sources, this bill is phrased so as to not prevent Bellevue from blocking East Link if they don’t get their way on the alignment through downtown. I’ve been told that the GMA prevents this blockage anyway, but only after a long fight in court that could delay completion.