I really don’t care whether we have HOV 3+, HOV 5+, or transit only lanes on the 520 bridge replacement. Even 3+ will keep transit flowing, and if it turns out there’s a problem, we can change it to 5+ later.
I especially don’t care about putting rail on the bridge. There is no plan to connect it to anything. Whatever we build now will almost definitely turn out in the long run to be in the wrong place, or installed the wrong way. That’s a great way to kill future transit ballot measures – opponents can just point and laugh.
There are two things I care about in the 520 debate.
We will eventually add rail transit to 520. My best guess is that we’ll build from Ballard to the UW, and eventually extend it to Redmond. That’s a good idea, and I think we all agree we should make sure the bridge can handle rail later. The big problem is going to be whether the later transit investment will require buying a bunch of the bridge from WSDOT again, like Sound Transit is having to do with I-90. We can prevent that.
So, point one: Specifically call out that design features and capacity for transit are paid for with non-18th Amendment funds (such as tolling), and are dedicated to transit. This should, at the very least, cover the HOV lanes, so they can, if necessary, be turned into real BRT, or even light rail.
Point two: We should keep the Montlake flyer stop. That said, if we have to lose it, the midday and nighttime service that people currently use there needs to be replaced. We need UW-Redmond, UW-Kirkland, and UW-Bellevue service to keep us from screwing UW students, faculty, and staff – not to mention patients and game-fans. That means Sound Transit’s new route 542 would need to run from 5am to 11pm seven days a week. The 540 would have to run on weekends and late at night. If the legislature is choosing to remove the flyer stop, they need to mitigate the loss with dedicated transit funding.
I think the other debates about transit on the bridge are distracting us from these two immediate issues.