520 Bridge under construction, 1962 (wikimedia)

As reported in multiple media outlets, various stakeholders are digging on over the design of the 520 bridge — Mayor McGinn, Microsoft, and some legislators have all staked out pretty firm positions.

I have to admit that I’m a bit conflicted about the McGinn position.  In the largest sense, he’s right: 520 will still basically be new car-oriented infrastructure and we ought to have incorporated light rail in the bridge in the first place.  His recognition of the fundamental shifts needed in transportation are perhaps 10 years ahead of Olympia’s.  On the other hand, he is (through no fault of his own) very late to this party, and there is a safety issue in the meantime.  Moreover, although everyone likes to wrap themselves in the transit flag it seems that lots of stakeholders* really have other interests at heart.  To call out one example, if Speaker Chopp is fired up about getting rail across the lake he has a funny way of showing it.

There are also some technical concerns.   I’ll focus on those below the jump:

  1. Link over 520 is not ready for prime time.  No one has done serious planning studies for rail in this corridor, and the $150,000 Mr. McGinn offered is a drop in the bucket.  For starters, there is absolutely no consensus on where Link should go on either side of the bridge, how much it will cost, and how it might be paid for.  The last item, in particular, would essentially require replacing half the legislature.
  2. I don’t believe WSDOT has seriously looked at the option of transit-only lanes.  Does HOV 3+ seriously impair transit?  Does kicking HOVs into general purpose lanes actually increase volume of cars by discouraging carpools?  People have their suspicions but nobody knows.
  3. The need for a direct connection between 520 and U-Link has become a sort of totem. This really is an inevitable outcome of building a highway to get cars and buses from the Eastside to downtown. If we were primarily interested in connecting to UW station we would have built a bridge that ended there and saved a lot of money.  Connecting to both might cost $1 billion more, money that could be used much more effectively on other transit projects.**
  4. There are lots of small-bore things transit advocates can fight for that could improve things like the connection to U-Link, but also don’t blow everything up: a transit lane on Montlake Blvd. between the interchange and Husky Stadium;  Bernie’s idea of eliminating the general-purpose exit on Montlake; Ben’s idea of making it clear in the legislation that gas tax money is not paying for the rail right-of-way; and, even though I don’t think it’s a big deal, the Montlake Flyer stop.

* In this phrase I emphasize I don’t mean McGinn.

** All the direct-connection WSDOT alternatives had general purpose exits into the Husky Stadium parking lot.

108 Replies to “Editorial: Digging in on SR520”

  1. I’m not exactly sure how many exits there are on the west side of the bridge, but I will say that one of the biggest contributors to congestion is access points (on-ramps especially).

    Our highways aren’t designed with parallel acceleration ramps, so when cars come onto the highway, they have to merge within a short distance, rather than entering into a lane and then making a lane change (like in Europe). This causes quite a bit of congestion especially in high-volume areas. So eliminating the general-purpose exit on Montlake would actually improve traffic for the roadway prior to that.

    1. Figuring out how transit will work on the Westside of the 520 Bridge is not a new issue, nor has it been finalized in even the A+ design that is now being rammed through (my word). Transit here is becoming a planned cost overrun and McGinn has a very smart and timely negotiating position.

      Planning for the conversion to light rail *eventually* is imperative. I’m not sure doing so now is the best course, but if we did have a transit only option then there would be no need to construct or disrupt anywhere between Montlake and I-5 where the existing two lanes are sufficient.

      Routing transit off the Montlake Bridge(via Capitol Hill or the UDistrict) does have additional transit costs, but those do not need be part of the 520 budget, if Seattle so desires. Lots of options there, including even utilizing the U-Link corridor for joint bus/rail operation! (for awhile)

      The details of the technical feasibility of these options is the job of the folks that have billed $220 Million to get us to this point, expecting all issues to have been studied in full is a simple expectation.

      As for the folks that don’t seem to think fiscal responsibility is important and their corporate voice takes precedence over a citizens voice, well, as far as I’m concerned you just abdicated your authority to lobby on any subject.

      And if the bums can’t be civil about that while they are panhandling on the onramps and light rail stations of this area, proceed accordingly.

      1. Douglas, the A+ design has a very good transit connection in the direct HOV ramps. I’m not sure how that’s “not finalized”. It’s right there.

      2. It’s my understanding that Ed Murray, at least, wanted to tweak the transit design for the A+ option. The direct HOV ramps are a no-brainer, though I think the neighborhood pulled them out in option ‘M’ (which I haven’t been able to find a detailed plan). As I recall the transit options still under review were a transit stop at Montlake, connections to the Light Rail station at Husky Stadium, and the Montlake Bridge.

      3. The direct HOV ramps don’t let buses traveling between downtown and the Eastside pull on and off the freeway to make a stop at Montlake. In addition there is the not small matter of what happens to those buses on the surface streets. The surface streets in the area are already virtual parking lots during peak periods, dumping more traffic on them isn’t going to help transit travel times or reliability.

        The solution I see to this are changing the EB off-ramp and WB on-ramp to/from Montlake from GP ramps to HOV/transit-only. The additional lanes across the ship canal should be either HOV only or transit only. I’d also look into providing signal priority and queue jumping for transit in the Montlake area.

        An additional issue with the A+ design is pedestrian and bicycle access and circulation through the Montlake area. The current arrangement is quite dangerous as cars enter the on-ramps without looking for either pedestrians or bicycles crossing their path.

      4. including even utilizing the U-Link corridor for joint bus/rail operation! (for awhile)

        This is utter nonsense. U Link isn’t being designed to allow joint bus/rail operations and it is a bit late to change that. Besides given the amount of light-rail ridership expected this would be a silly thing to spend money on as it won’t be long before the number of trains on the line force the buses out of the DSTT as well.

      5. I understand that at some point the ULink could not handle joint operation. You could very well be right about the remainder of your points, but it would be nice to have an official position on that.

        The place to start on this is likely whether there are any cost savings to be gained by combining the ULink and option K/M tunnels, if even for transit only?

        It might well take an expanded ULink tunnel for that Montlake-Husky segment to accomplish this. Is this even worth talking about? How deep below the Montlake cut is the ULink?

      6. Any major change to U Link at this point would add significant delay and expense.

        The geometry of the U-Link tunnel is designed to get Link trains between the U Link stations and to eventually connect to North Link. They aren’t designed to have access from the 520 ROW or in the stadium parking lot. Besides the tunnels are very deep where they pass under the cut, 100 feet or so below the ground if I remember correctly.

        Ridership on U Link is almost certain to get to the level where trains every 3 minutes are necessary quite soon after opening. Its almost a certainty by the time North Link opens.

  2. Blue Ribbon Commissions seem to work pretty well. Seems like getting members wouldn’t be much of a problem!

  3. Question 1 about light rail on 520: from where to where exactly? Are we talking about extending LINK from Husky Stadium? Or a branch line eastward from somewhere under Capitol Hill?

    Question 2: Does 520 make sense as a rail alignment at all? A light rail route presumes at least plans for multiple compact pedestrian-oriented developments along the alignment. Bellevue and Medina presently empty between Lake Washington and Microsoft. Any chance of change in that situation?

    Question 3: Might not alignment from U-District to Kirkland and east make better sense via University Village, Sand Point Way, and a rail-only floating bridge across the lake at its narrowest place at Sand Point?

    Structuring bridge for future light rail is a good. So is fully-reserved transit lane plan, including exclusive ramps. But seriously wonder if it isn’t a mistake to make trains compete with road vehicles on freeways.

    Trains do best where cars can’t go.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I think McGinn just wants to put tracks on the bridge, even if they aren’t used right now, for the future. It does make sense because a lot of people go from the U District to the Eastside. A new floating bridge would be very expensive.

      1. It doesn’t make sense. How are you going to connect center lane tracks to anything else? To build flyover ramps later, you’d have to widen the bridge again.

      2. Direct Access Ben – however I’m not aware of a joint bus transit direct access ramp and the pioneering design of same is a difficult task.

        FWIW, it might just make the career reputation of an aspiring engineer…

      3. I think they were talking about putting them in the outer lane. They’ll probably have to have their own tunnel to UW Station in the future.

      4. The 64,000 dollar question is whether you could connect light rail to a modified ULINK through the Montlake interchange area. If so this changes the entire frame of the option K/M interchange debate.

        If feasible you could utilize a modified ULINK Montlake tunnel for your transit only Montlake Cut crossing. If not feasible, well, you could always build a second bridge from Sandpoint to Kirkland!

    2. The trains and buses operating in the same freeway lane is a big question of mine. I’ve conceptually proposed exactly that with the current Tacoma HOV project, connecting I-5 to the existing LINK segment.

      It does work, with some initial limitations, in the Downtown Transit Tunnel.

      Conceptually, I think the the technological path is clear – via ITS. The details of that are certainly not available at this point, but it isn’t unrealistic to hope for a rollout of this tech during the Obama administration.

      We can d**n well demand to have transit questions answered before a design is finalized, including yours. Even A+ isn’t final in that regard, and this fact is a clear planned cost overrun item. McGinn’s negotiation position is both technically smart and financially sound.

      BTW, do you know Carl Jackson, the Union rep to the Dow’s committee?

      1. McGinn is also talking about a vote for extending Light Rail to Ballard. My theory is that he wants a run from Ballard to 520 and let it end at the other end of the bridge. Let Kirkland & Bellevue vote in the rest of the connection.
        (Which I believe they would given half a chance seeing tracks end at their end of the bridge.)

      2. Yes, going from Ballard to the SR-520 bridge probably has merit (allowing conveinent transfers from all those north/south bus routes across north Seattle) but at horrendous impacts to the local communities. I really hate to bring it up again, with all its deserved baggage, but that corridor across north Seattle might be easier to build with monorail technology than with light rail…

      3. I don’t see much difference between monorail and elevated light rail in terms of construction costs or local impacts.

        Furthermore I don’t see anyone in Ballard, Freemont, Wallingford, or the University District being terribly happy with the idea of elevated transit stations in the middle of their neighborhood business districts.

      4. Boring a tunnel is not that big a deal. You could bore into the hillside southwest of NE 45th St. viaduct and west of 25th Ave., provide a cut-and-cover station in the sea of parking between 11th and Brooklyn north of the Meany Hotel on 45th St., with a transfer to North Link there, then continue the bore west to Wallingford.

        There are a couple of zones in Wallingford where a station might fit with reasonably low impacts. You could continue this bore to Fremont; if you emerged where it levels out west of Fremont and ran at grade into Ballard, it’s a 3 mile tunnel and a system that connects to almost every north-south bus in North Seattle. At $300 million a mile plus 3 underground stations at $150 million a pop and some other infrastructure it’s maybe $1.5 billion in raw construction costs, by this back of the envelope calculation.

        Admittedly, this is money we do not currently have for a plan that does not exist… but only way those things can ever change is for someone to have a vision.

      5. I agree that if a Ballard to University District light rail line is built it will almost certainly be underground for at least the University and Wallingford portions.

        Such a beast is supposed to be studied by ST prior to putting together ST3.

        Connecting the Ballard, Freemont, Wallingford, and University District urban villages together would be a big win. I’m guessing at the very least there would be stations at Ballard & Market, Fremont & 34th, Wallingford & 45th, Brooklyn & 45th (connect to North Link). Another possible station would be at 15th NW and a connection to a possible Ballard/Downtown link line, though that would be a bit close to the “downtown Ballard” station. For a connection to a possible 520 rail line East you’d have a station at UW station (and another transfer to the main N/S Link spine), there would also be the possibility of a station at U Village though it would be a bit close to UW and Brooklyn stations.

      6. I think it would be better to have it continue straight to Ballard from Wallingford in a bored tunnel. A Downtown-Queen Anne-Fremont-Wallingford-points north underground line can be developed later, but in the interim, Fremont can be served by the streetcar.

      7. Can we throw the monorail idea into the dustbin? All the arguments about monorail being less visually obtrusive, quieter, or whatever don’t make up for the fact that it is expensive to build and cumbersome to operate relative to a two rail system, and most importantly, monorail simply adds another system to the network. It is a system that will forever be incompatible with all the other systems that we have. Look at New York, an ancient system with lots of crossovers between lines, and still it is cursed with two different car width systems that cannot interchange. The goal should be a minimum number of systems with maximum ability to interchange without passengers having to change vehicles or modes.

      8. How are monorails and light rail really all that different, save for the number of rails? Seeing has how like 99.99% of all the world’s trains have two rails, it seems like it would make sense to go with what we know works on every continent except Antarctica.

        Plus, what are the horrendous impacts? Having light rail nearby seems pretty sweet!

      9. How does light rail get across the ship canal and then to the level of the bridge deck on 520? Furthermore how do you propose to route the line between Ballard and Montlake? Remember any sort of grade-separated line will be quite expensive to build.

      10. Not making recommendations or speaking for anyone else on this (e.g. the neighborhood I represent or the coalition we are a part of) – there are, logically, only two ways to get light rail vehicles across 520 and to UW: a new bridge or a new tunnel.

        The approach to bridge or tunnel would be to ascend or descend from the center lanes on 520 (where light rail would go) heading west, gaining enough of a grade difference to pass over or under the westbound mainline and then turning north towards the UW. Various alignments are physically possible.

        A bridge would have to have a minimum 70 foot clearance, and that’s with an exemption from the Coast Guard as the current clearance requirement is 110 feet. The width required for light rail alone is generally considered to be about 30 feet. Nothing stops a light rail line from diving into a tunnel after crossing a bridge, if that solves anything. A bridge would come with noise, visual and other environmental impacts.

        A tunnel would have different (and probably much reduced) impacts. There are multiple ways to build a tunnel, but the way with the lowest impacts is to bore it. I believe there is a alignment with acceptable curves and grades, but it’s tricky because it passes underneath the Montlake interchange area so there are some construction challenges.

        This is why it’s so critical to think about what is possible now, before the interchange is finalized, to avoid precluding light rail in the long term at the same time we believe we are enabling it across the lake.

      11. Well if WSDOT wants to build a second drawbridge, making it so two lanes of the bridge could be taken over by light rail in the future would seem like a good idea. It certainly would avoid the problems of tunneling or trying to provide 110 feet of clearance at Montlake cut. I know some object to the idea of running light rail across a drawbridge, but this line isn’t going to have quite the passenger volume that say U Link will.

        In any case I agree it is a good idea to plan (and build) the 520 project with light rail in mind. Even if there is no plan and no funding to build a line any time soon.

        After all we agreed to design the new I-90 bridge to take rail in 1975. The bridge itself wasn’t complete until 1985. Planning for a Eastside light rail line didn’t start until a few years after that. Funding for East Link didn’t happen until 2008. Expected completion isn’t until 2020.

        Who’s to say what we will want to do as a region in 10, 20, 35, or 45 years?

      12. How would you get the light rail from 520 onto one of the Montlake Blvd. drawbridges? Link’s turning radius is way too tight to be able to do that.

      13. Streetcars once ran on the existing Montlake Bridge, but the proposed two drawbridge configuration could not support Link. Even if the bridge could, the approaches on either side are inherently constrained. And then there’s the fact that the drawbridge goes up, which makes it difficult or impossible to achieve schedule reliability, interline on the Eastside, etc.

        It would not work to run light rail at grade through Montlake. That’s on the list of the reasons that second drawbridge doesn’t make sense — we shouldn’t be building a new crossing here that can never work for light rail.

      14. I bet it could work. Maybe not perfectly.

        Do we have a lock on those Kinkisharyo trainsets? All the ST mockups show them, but it seems like other vehicles could be used. And also should be – are the Kinkies the best?

      15. “How does light rail get across the ship canal and then to the level of the bridge deck on 520?”

        It might nor be necessary for 520 Link to cross the ship canal at Montlake. A new light rail transfer station could be built underneath the Montlake interchange for people to transfer between 520 Link and North Link. The tubes for North Link are almost directly under the intersection of Montlake and 520, and are relatively straight and level at this location (Rep. Pederson has recently suggested building a similar station for bus / light rail transfers). 520 Link could then continue across Portage Bay on the lower level of a two-level Portage Bay viaduct. A tunnel could then be bored under 520 starting near Boyer Avenue. The tunnel could then continue roughly NW under north Capitol Hill and the ship canal towards Gas Works park. From there there are several options for connecting to Fremont, Wallingford and Ballard.

        Building a new station at Montlake would probably be cheaper than trying to build a new crossing of the Montlake Cut. Building it within the footprint of 520 would eliminate the neighborhood and environmental impacts that a second crossing of the cut would have.

      16. The Montlake transit ‘interchange’ is the big question. I wonder if it is feasible to modify the ULink Montlake cut tunnel to serve as a transit only 520 option K/M tunnel?

        FWIW, I conceptually like the idea of tunneling to Phinney ridge, going on surface from there. Surface might not be feasible on 45th. It is along Lake Union, but you lose the Wallingford service (but gain Fremont and a densifying Lake Union shoreline)

      17. Know Carl well. Contact Dow for Carl’s contact info. Outstanding trolleybus and streetcar operator and supervisor, awesome resume as electrician. Member of Federal committee on US streetcar design. Anything Carl Jackson tells you about electric transit, believe.

        Mark Dublin

    3. Here’s what I don’t understand about Microsoft.

      They make their money selling software that supposedly lets you “work anywhere”.

      But when it comes to they own business, everyone has to get on a bus and go to Redmond over the same bridge at the same time.

      It doesn’t make sense.

  4. How about this: Microsoft can start paying taxes, then we will consider them to be “stakeholders”.

    McGinn could easily cool their heels in Redmond by saying “well, there’s an issue with funding, and since we’re looking for revenue everywhere, it’s in Seattle’s best interest (and the state’s) to have the IRS look into accusations that Microsoft is dodging hundreds of millions yearly in taxes in Washington State and King County, above and beyond their existing tax breaks.”

    1. Why limit tolls on 520 to $3.25 – why not an ITS lane, not totally unrealistic to expect during the Obama administration, with a variable rate. Charge Bill, and anyone else who really wants to get across fast, $325!

    2. Microsoft is a key stakeholder not because of the taxes they pay, but because of the number of people they employ. This region, without Microsoft, surely would not be at the same standard of living. They have a right and a responsibility to speak up about something that affects their business (our economy) and their many thousands of employees.

      1. How many thousands of people live and work in and around the Central District, U-District, Capitol Hill, Montlake and areas otherwise connected to 520? What about the Central District which will now be directly linked to 520? The first mass-eviction of People of Color in the CD happened due to the first 520 bridge and the potential highway link that never came to fruition, and now they’re increasing throughput into the neighborhood from 520 AND building out the first leg of the RH Thompson? Social justice, in Washington State is taking a huge hit from this.

        And what about Microsoft’s founder saying we should reduce carbon emissions? You can achieve that by a smaller bridge with more transit.

        Moreover, what is being said about Microsoft is what was said about Boeing in the 70s. We’re more prosperous and more heavily populated now than we were after the Boeing Bust.

        This is all so hilariously green-washed that I’m starting to doubt Seattle’s enviro-cred. You know, ignoring that our main river is a superfund site.

      2. Wait do you think that this plan includes the RH Thompson expressway? Because it doesn’t. None of those neighborhoods will be any more connected to the 520 than they were before this was built.

    3. I’m not sure the IRS has jurisdiction regarding state and county taxes – would it be Department of Revenue?

  5. Didn’t the Seattle Times do a poll showing that a majority of residents both sides of the lake supported Mcginn on this one? (or at least supported him on making them transit only lanes?

    State politicians need to back off of our region

  6. Portland has seven bridges crossing the Willamette, but MAX only uses one. There’s no reason it’s essential for Link to use two bridges to cross Lake Washington.

      1. I-90 is not up and running yet – and, based on the evidence, that project will be another excellent example of a fully planned cost overrun project.

        The current Eastlink plan is headed for as much delay as the 520 bridge – it is completely conceivable that a 520 light rail plan could be devised that is more acceptable to Bellevue than any of the current plans, tied up in confrontational politics.

        In any case, like in Portland, that will be an option. Considering the issue fully at this time is the best way to plan for the future. Cost wise it may well not pan out, unless the existing two lane structure between Montlake and I-5 is left in place. Figuring out the issues now is imperative. McGinn’s negotiating position is both technically smart and fiscally sound.

    1. MAX will use 2, with one being purpose built specifically for Streetcars and Light Rail. I believe from the EIS for the Portland Streetcar Loop, one end of the trackage for the Streetcar will allow for a connection to the Eastside of the river, just in case.

      The Portland Streetcar will also use the Broadway Bridge, so that’s 3.

      Sellwood Bridge may include a rail option when rebuilt with stubs built for the trolley trail that currently exists, so that’s 4.

    2. Agreed. Running LR across 520 just isn’t needed.

      First, it doesn’t integrate well with the LR we are already building (as has been discussed on this blog before). And integrating it with the Husky Stadium station is pretty darn un-economic, as is building a new station for U-Link at 520.

      But more importantly, where is the need for LR on 520? With LR across I-90 all of the need for ST2 will be satisfied. ST3 is likely to be a spur off East Link to Issaquah and/or to Kirkland and Woodinville, but this too can easily be interlined with East Link over I-90.

      So what are we talking about here? Building something now in support of ST4 later? Sorry, too far out and just not worth it at this point.

      I say build the darn bridge, dedicate the HOV lanes to Bus+HOV3, and make sure that the Westside interchanges are well designed and built for local impacts, general traffic coming off 520, and HOV’s coming off 520.

      But I don’t really think McGinn is serious about this anyhow. He appears to be using LR as weapon against roads, but that is not the same thing as being “pro LR”, or at least “pro well planned LR.”

      1. We’ve been asking the wrong transportation questions throughout this process.

        We throw our hands up and accept that there will be traffic congestion until the end of time, so we plan HOV lanes for buses, vanpools and carpools to bypass that congestion, instead of asking how we can get all of the traffic to flow well through tolling policy. Then, because we can’t stop buses in an HOV through lane, we delete transit stops that were the primary justification for the HOV lanes to begin with.

        We should be asking a question like, “How can we, through a combination of design and operational policy, improve travel times and reliability for transit trips first (not just transit vehicles), carpool/vanpool trips second, and general purpose vehicle trips, third?”

        The current plan does not provide a reliable route to access the UW rail station, let alone buses to the Eastside, from U Village, Children’s Hospital and other origins in that area – Montlake Blvd. remains jammed, and then there’s the drawbridge to contend with. We should be asking the same question about transit, HOV and GP mobility on this corridor as we do across the lake, as this is one of the primary access routes for 520 and the fate of these corridors is inherently integrated.

        The current plan cannot provide reliable, fast access to Kirkland or Redmond from north of the ship canal. East Link, for all its benefits, does not address this need as it would take about half an hour longer each way to detour through downtown, Mercer Island and Bellevue en route to Kirkland or Redmond, a trip delay that exceeds the average commute time in the U.S. SR 520 is a vital transit route for the same reasons that it is a vital automotive route – not just because it offers lanes across the lake, but because it’s the more direct route for a lot of trips, despite all the congestion.

        Meanwhile, no 520 bridge can handle the kind of growth we expect in person-volume on this corridor in vehicles due to road capacity constraints elsewhere in the system; in the long term the growth will have to be handled via transit. It’s not clear that a system based on buses is going to be able to handle the demand in the planning timeframe for this project. If we plan a really ineffective and unattractive transit system, then ridership will be lower, so maybe buses can handle it and it becomes somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. But to handle the demand by 2030 we think we need to have in order to achieve our larger goals would take a huge volume of buses, and that comes with all of the same downsides of a BRT-based system that drove us to consider Link for corridors like downtown Seattle to the airport.

        Meanwhile, a light rail connection at least to the UW is not wildly ambitious compared to other aspects of this 520 project. It’s just another type of vehicle with somewhat, but not hugely different design criteria. Elsewhere on this post I have speculated on potential alignments.

        I think one important question to ask ourselves is, what sort of future do we want? Do we want a future that looks a lot like the present, with more pavement and more vehicles, or do we want a different future, with more light rail, ped and bike friendly, with a similar quantity of vehicles as we have today, despite years of growth, and much higher transit use? The latter sounds a lot better to me.

      2. Well Jonathan I think you’re engaging with Point 3. If your willing to toss the idea of connecting cars to downtown, and will devalue what buses can accomplish in this corridor, then let’s chuck the entire Portage Bay bridge and build the bridge right into the Husky Stadium parking lot.

        We simply can’t afford to have a straight line to I-5 AND a straight line to the UW. I’d love to do the latter but that’s a steep hill to climb, metaphorically.

      3. Because the K,L,and M options were all attempts to do both and they were all too expensive, as evaluated by WSDOT.

      4. L was pretty close to meeting the budget, it was the impacts that were the biggest issue.

        K and M were padded by enormous handouts to the UW for mitigation — $522 million in the case of Plan M (a significant fraction of the $1.2 billion gap that remained.)

        Regardless, all of those plans attempted to add 4 general purpose lanes across the cut. We don’t have to be that ambitious just to get transit to the UW on its own ROW.

        Finally, one should really consider long term operational costs for transit in addition to capital costs here. That may not amount to a billion dollars, but there are differences.

      5. Sure, if you’re just going to say “we’ll build this without worrying about impacts or handing out mitigation money” then sure, there’s lots of things you can build. But that’s not how infrastructure projects actually work.

      6. The issue is not whether impacts are important (of course they are) or mitigation ought to be part of the package (of course it should be.) The issue is the disproportionate mitigation suggested for one plan (Plan M, which is what Plan K evolved into) and one party (the UW.) How did this come to be? (I don’t know, and I’ve been a participant in the process.)

        It’s water under the bridge, but the $522 million gold-plated parking garage (or whatever those funds were for) accounts for close to half of the estimated difference between plan M and A+. And a meaningful portion of the remainder of that gap was items that were actually negotiable that we were in the process of negotiating, but unfortunately we never completed that discussion because the SR 520 Legislative Workgroup decided to cut the process short, ignore all of the objections and ideas that had come from our communities, and simply anoint A+ as-is, knowing full well that this would result in a battle royale.

        Regardless, we have some real problems to solve, and we’ll need to leverage work that has been done before to solve them.

  7. Gas prices expected to jump in coming weeks

    By Gary Richards


    If they search hard enough, Bay Area drivers can fill up their cars for as little as $2.67 a gallon — in usually expensive San Francisco no less.

    Better enjoy it. Prices aren’t expected to continue their downward trend.

    Oil watchers say we’ll be paying more than $3 a gallon within weeks and maybe much more by midsummer, the result of a number of factors ranging from Californians driving more to the special blend of gasoline to a refinery strike in France that has sent overseas market into a tizzy.

    “While prices in San Jose have come down, I don’t expect that to last much longer,” said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com, which tracks prices nationally.

    He says we’ll be paying “$3 a gallon soon.” Others think higher.

    Darin Newsom, an analyst with an energy group called Telvent DTN, warns that the national average could be “near $3.30 and the average California price near $3.60” by the Fourth of July.

    Rest of article here: http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_14444718?nclick_check=1

    1. Well, I won’t be driving on that new 520 bridge with gas prices like that. Especially since it’ll take, oh, three weeks to get the bridge built.

  8. Regarding your second technical question, assuming the transit lane is defined as “buses only” without rail (for now), the lane would be significantly under utilized and would discourage carpooling.

    Metro operates at MOST 600 buses across the bridge each day (300 in each direction). The typical capacity of an HOV lane is about 1500 vehicles per hour per lane. Assuming all 600 buses travel on the bridge in a single hour of the day, and assuming one bus = 3 typical passenger cars, this means that each transit lane would be below capacity by 600 vehicles in that hour of the day

    Capacity = 1500 per lane
    Buses (in terms of passenger cars) = 300*3 = 900 per lane
    Remaining Capacity = 600 vehicles per hour per lane

    Obviously not all Metro buses would cross the bridge at the same time, but the point I’m trying to make is that limiting the lane to buses only would be a huge mistake, because you remove the incentive for people to carpool by kicking them to the general purpose lanes, even though you have significant capacity available in the “transit only” lane.

    1. I think that’s a start, but the real question is whether the HOVs create delays at chokepoints. Also, if HOVs become pointless some people will drive alone and some will choose to take the bus.

      I’m not saying you’re wrong the effect of transit lanes would be positive, I’m saying there are lots of empirical questions that haven’t been answered.

      1. My first take is that planning for a transition to light rail is the best, negotiated, result, but again lots of a factors to consider, including the merge and the very large cost savings from leaving the Montlake to I-5 segment as is at zero cost.

      2. Leaving the Montlake to I-5 section as is would be really, really, dumb. Not only would it reduce political support in Seattle for such a scheme, but it would back up the highway onto all that new concrete on the new bridge and turn it into little more than a very expensive parking lot.

        We aren’t talking about building a dedicated bridge for eastsiders to get to the U without sullying themselves by dealing with the rest of Seattle; we are supposedly building a regional transportation asset. If it is designed in such a way as to not satisfy the needs of Seattleites and Eastsiders alike, then Seattle should pull out of it from both a funding and a political support POV.

      3. A two lane Montlake to I-5 segment only works IF you go Transit only from the get go, it might well be financially imperative to do so, in that case ONLY.


  9. McGinn’s position is exactly correct. By state law per-capita VMT must be reduced 50 percent by 2050, and the Seattle City Council has recently committed to making Seattle a carbon-neutral city. How does building a six lane 520 support either of those goals? A study needs to be done to identify origin and destination information for 520 traffic and then a transit solution that facilitates those trips needs to be designed and built. I have a feeling that a light rail line connecting north Seattle neighborhoods like Ballard, Fremont, and Wallingford to Redmond would take a lot of cars off of 520. Having a fast, reliable light rail line running north of the ship canal and across the lake would make commuting by transit a much more realistic option for a lot of people.

    1. You got it, Zed. I’ve seen some old O/D maps — not sure what became of them — but basically, 520 today serves everything north of downtown heading to anywhere north of downtown Bellevue. Seattle and Bellevue are sort of split but I-90 is the main connection between the two downtowns.

      A significant portion of the 520 traffic that crosses the lake is from north of the ship canal. (Over two thirds of it here in Montlake.) A significant portion of that traffic has no reasonable transit option today that competes with driving. These are neighborhoods — Wallingford, Fremont, Ballard — which use transit heavily today in the city itself. Those I know would be thrilled to pieces at a direct rail connection to the Eastside.

    2. Growth management goals and what we actually do is a longer subject, but one worthy of having. It is funny how some of the same law firms that billed to help draft these laws see them as their property to use, or not use, as they see fit.

      I think the best measure of good planning shows in the flexible design of projects – we don’t know there will be a north of ship canal light rail, but the 520 project should be compatible with it.

      In the technical details this comes down to integrating into the ULink alignment, running right under the Montlake interchange. Why isn’t anyone talking about this more specifically?

    1. Where do the people for whom SAT scores are no longer relevant – say, anyone older than 19 – go?

  10. There were critical decision points in the early 00’s – I attended those Trans Lake Washington Executive Committee meetings – when the configuration of 4 traffic lanes plus 2 light rail (or “HCT”) lanes was dismissed from further consideration. First they decided to look at tolling only as a way of generating revenue rather than as a way of managing traffic; the result was that the GP lanes remained congested, which was the core of the argument to widen the bridge in the first place. Then they decided to analyze HCT only in combination with these 6 vehicle lanes, and they further assumed the HCT on SR 520 would replace that on I-90, requiring an additional tunnel to downtown. The net effect was to boost the total costs and impacts of any configuration with HCT into the stratosphere, pushing us back to 6 vehicle lanes, wide enough for 8 from day 1 with restriping, and expandable to 10.

    They never evaluated a way to use pricing to reduce traffic congestion on the bridge itself. They never evaluated the costs and benefits of a light line constructed in addition to (not instead of) East Link. And they certainly never evaluated what would happen if we open all 6 lanes on the new bridge to general traffic (or make them all HOT lanes) which the Washington State Department of Tim Eyman could do in a heartbeat.

    The new bridge is going to be 6 lanes which is what the state law already requires. That’s the only part that’s paid for and under construction. It should be built with rails on it, on a lane where light rail could run should we get our act together on either side. That’s a change order for a part of this project that hasn’t even gone through final design let alone gone out to bid.

    Indeed there has been little thought given to possible Link routings on either side of the lake, but we ought to be funding a study of this, considering that we are spending orders of magnitude more to make the bridge expandable. We’ve had a long term plan in place for 5 years at Sound Transit with rails on this bridge, and a long term configuration planned for 520 with rail this bridge, and state law that mandates a transit connection to the UW. We have East Link routing almost finalized – close enough for planning purposes at this point for 520. So we could and should go through a big study, but basically, there’s your route. Follow 520 from UW to South Kirkland and then follow the BNSF ROW to interline with East Link; then just complete it to downtown Redmond, now with twice the reason to get there. We could continue to run buses across the bridge as needed for any number of reasons. The 520 line should be designed to avoid impacts to the line under construction, while enabling an extension towards Ballard, also in the ST long range plan. It’s 2010 and it’s going to take 10 years to wrap up construction on this project, and tearing up 520 as soon as it’s built doesn’t make sense. What we’re talking about is already the long range.

    As for how to get under or over the cut, neither would cost a billion dollars – or even half that. It’s nontrivial, but it’s a solvable problem. As for carpools and vanpools, with a combination of tolling policy and queue bypass lanes where needed, I’m sure we can get them there with far more reliability than they have now. There could be incremental costs, but then again, there may be considerable savings due to the competitive bid environment during this protracted recession, and with a project configuration that has popular support, voters might be amenable to raising more funds, which we need to do already to the tune of at least $2.3 billion per current estimates.

    Maybe if we built truly effective and desirable transit, it would be really popular, and there would be less traffic, and then it would be easier to toll the thing so all the vehicles flow reasonably well. That’s a future I find inspiring. Sitting behind a drawbridge on a crowded bus waiting to drive through a giant interchange, staring at a second drawbridge where the view of the canal used to be, is a future I find dispiriting.

    1. Just a question:
      Aren’t the pontoons designed, bid and nearing start of construction on the coast?
      That seems to be the critical question. What were they designed to carry?
      Embedded street rail, or retro-fit top running rails at a later date.
      I can’t see WSDOT redesigning and bidding a new pontoon design.

      1. I’m not the biggest expert on it, but I believe the pontoons are capable of carrying any of the things anyone has discussed on the deck of the bridge. I do not believe they are a constraint.

      2. WSDOT has accepted a bid to build the pontoons and construction should be commencing soon, at least on the graving dock. Actual pontoon construction is still a couple of years away but is supposed to be complete by 2014 I believe.

        For the bridge pontoon configuration, see page 13 of this WSDOT presentation. The basic pontoons will only be able to support 4 lanes. To add more lanes and/or HCT/rail, supplemental pontoons are necessary. I’m not clear on what exactly is or isn’t funded, perhaps someone else could chime in? I would think that the supplemental pontoons for 6 lanes are funded and destined for construction, but the pontoons for rail/HCT are not.

        The bridge is designed to structurally accomodate 6 lanes plus rail, but will not be capable from day one of doing so.

      3. Interesting. That presentation has a schedule that doesn’t predict even recieving construction permits until the end of 2010, and lists the start of pontoon construction at that time (you can’t let someone start building your design until it’s approved – too much risk that changes will happen). So there’s still some time for changes.

  11. This is not directly on the topic, but deals with getting to the other side of the lake. Has light rail up Lake City Way (from either U District or Northgate), to Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell, Woodinville, and Redmond been considered? Or is it down in the queue in terms of priorities, or not in any queue?

    1. ST did an issue paper on light rail between Northgate and UW Bothell along SR 522 (Bothell Way) a while back. Since their routing turned off SR-522 at 145th the ridership wasn’t exactly overwhelming but was enough to consider building a line some time in the future.

      The City of Seattle did an intermediate capacity transit study a few years back as well. They looked at BRT, streetcar, and elevated guideway transit (assumed to be monorail, though the costs and ridership give a good ballpark for LRT as well) in both the West Seattle to Downtown corridor and Downtown to Ballard to Northgate to Lake City.

      In the ICT study the best ridership was Northgate/Ballard/Downtown though the Lake City segment added some more riders. I’m not sure if the ICT study really considered all of the network effects such as riders transferring at Northgate to reach downtown rather than riding the line through Ballard to reach downtown. Additionally continuing the line out Bothell way to UW Bothell would certainly boost ridership. I’m guessing you could easily just add-in the ridership from the ST 522 corridor study to the ridership from the Seattle ICT study.

  12. I think I know how to solve this. We need another tunnel. Quick! Form a stakeholder committee.

  13. The 520 bridge does need to be replaced, due to its age and vulnerability and its important transportation function, that for the region it is a higher priority than a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct. The important function is that is such a shorter route to Redmond and Kirkland (and parts of Bellevue), especially from areas north of the ship canal – and that is true whether you are driving a car or riding transit.

    I wish our region could design a rail route for the bridge, as it is a 50-year investment, and it is unlikely that SOVs will play the same role in transportation as they do today. The U.S. will be competing with emerging China, India and other countries for a limited supply of energy, and electric cars are unlikely to be a panacea (electricity has to come from somewhere, the batteries need heavy metals, etc.) There are many reasonable routes a rail line can take. I don’t know if the political will and funding can be found to make rail happen.

    But if our region builds a road bridge, whose transit mode is buses (or “BRT), then at least make sure that the new 520 bridge will work well for buses. An important element of that is to retain the Montlake Flyer Freeway station, in addition to HOV ramps for buses going to UW. The Montlake Freeway station provides important connectivity for 520 buses – letting people go south towards Capitol Hill and the CD, north towards Wedgwood, Wallingford etc, as well as walking access the U-area & Montlake neighborhood.

    Buses needs stops to get people on and off – and connections and networks make buses better. Even better would be if an additional Link stop could be built right under 520 to make for seamless transfers between Link & 520 BRT. But even without a Link stop, a 520 Montlake Freeway station has value for many, many riders.

    WashDOT will say they will provide buses direct to the UW, but that will require funding forever. And if the service doesn’t draw enough riders, who knows if it will continue, or what the frequency will be. For example, ST has a route from the UW to Kirkland (ST540) which ran 7 days/week for about five years, but weekend service has been discontinued because ridership did not warrant it. Weekday evenings it drops to hourly after 7:30pm and stops altogether at 9:30pm.

    It is unlikely that there will be good frequency service to the UW during off-peak hours, and it is shortsighted to have a design requiring 520 buses to travel 8 miles from Evergreen Point to downtown Seattle without accessing the great connecting point at Montlake. Good frequency to Montlake on 520 combined with good frequency along the 43/48 route provide better access to more people than eliminating the Montlake Freeway station and adding a few more UW buses.

    Retaining the Montlake Flyer station allows our transit providers to maintain all day routes from Kirkland and Redmond to downtown Seattle at good frequencies, with Montlake as a transfer stop. During off-peak periods if these routes run every 15 minutes, that is a better service for most riders than an hourly bus to the UW, and a bus every 30 minutes that skips Montlake. Plus the Montlake stop is a better transfer for riders headed to/from the south.

    The Executive Summary of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on page 29 says “All Options would substantially increase the demand for transit service.” while page 30 says “All options would removed the Montlake Freeway Transit Station and replace its function at other nearby transit stops. Loss of the transit station will require passengers to change their current travel routes and these changes could include using light rail, additional bus transfers, and finding alternate bus routes to get to the same destination.” It is basically a cop out and the document never specifies the alternatives.

    So… for the new 520 bridge to function well for bus transit, the Montlake Freeway station should be retained in the new 520 design – I am convinced that it is possible to do so within the footprint of A+ if a competent engineer is given the assignment to fit it in. (I was told previously that the problem was fitting the transit stop into the 520 footprint. The A+ design increases the footprint by 50% already. Is it really fair to transit users, while increasing the freeway by 50%, to take away an existing, well-used facility? It should be engineered back in.)

  14. Does anyone know if there are physical constraints limiting the actual pontoon’s lifetime?

    Not whether it is designed for a specific load, but the actual ‘floatability’ of the pontoon itself.

    Does the concrete degrade enough that infiltration of the water makes it impossible to keep up by pumping?

    I realize we’ve had our problems with the floating bridges sinking, but those seem to be design/maintenance errors, (Hood canal withstanding excessive winds, contractors not sealing pontoons correctly).
    I know there’s one of the former Mercer Island Bridge pontoons up in Canada.
    http://www.pierresbay.com/photo_gallery.php (row 2, column 1). I’ve been on it.


    1. I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically short-lived about pontoons – the concrete itself certainly has a long potential lifespan. There may be specific design flaws that would create cracks that would limit their life. I believe this is the current issue.

      Why we don’t just replace just the pontoons, updating their design, then concrete filling the hollow supports for the free-standign bridge sections is beyond me. It seems like this work would be in the hundreds of million dollar range, a full order of magnitude cheaper than the superbridge we’re going to build.

  15. McGinn’s ateempt to ruffle feathers and decisions in just about every area of Seattle life that has been decided upon is not very constructive. This is demoracy at its worst – i.e. someone new on the block has to come in and reshape everything simply because he got elected. Doesn’t matter that so too did the previous team! At what point is a concept or idea re-elected as opposed to just somebody new coming in to lead. Have they been elected to lead what has previously been decided or re-lead something new. I don’t think the last mayoral election in Seattle really decided this.

    My advice to the new mayor for what its worth is to husband your leadership ideas for when something new needs to be decided and then you can shape it. There will be plenty of opportunities for this in the future. There seems to be little point in lumbering in and throwing your arms into a pot that has already been stirred enough and is ready for serving.

    I do not see any practical purpose at this stage in adding Light Rail to the 520 when we still trying to get tracks over the I-90 – as approved by the voters in Novemeber, 2008. Wait for ST3 for this – or ST4. Few projects get built if people are too far ahead of the curve – just enough to shape a vision that is on the horizon and not beyond it.

    1. I’m glad that he’s putting his foot down on 520. The state and county have committed to reducing carbon emissions 70% by 2050, the city has committed to being carbon neutral, and the state, by law, has committed to reducing per-capita VMT 18% by 2020 and 50% by 2050. None of these goals can be achieved if we keep rolling over on issues like 520, by delaying investments in real transit and allowing WSDOT to remain a highway building department instead of a transportation department. In 1960 (50 years ago) we thought 520 was a great solution to our transportation needs. Look how well it turned out. Are we prepared to sink $5 billion into repeating the same mistake and put off building something better for another 50 years?

      1. Look, you guys here just love this mayor but can’t you see the pitfalls here? With limited funds available and democractic constraints, how can we pour everything into a pot that is too small to contain it? Build incrementally. It is a huge leap forward that we get a HOV lane on the new bridge. When funds become available further on down the road, we can revisit the idea of putting Light Rail on the Bridge deck – as we are doing with the I-90 – or supposed to be if we don’t all get distracted. I am all for the vision of getting trains on the deck, but not yet and not when it torpedoes everything that has been gained so far.

        My points above still stand that things decided upon by previously elected officials should not automatically get redecided upon just because there is someone new in town and there is no overwhelming reason to do so. It is a recipe for gridlock and inefficiency. As I have been saying all along, and as someone once said about the effect of the French Revolution, it is too early to tell the long term ramifications. On a smaller scale, the shake up of Seattle politics in 2009, is just that, a shake up and we still cannot tell yet what the full ramifications of it are. For this writer, at least, I believe in some continuity and consistency between administrations where there is no over powering reason to support change. By way, of contrast, when President Obama got elected in 2008, there was an over whelming reason to change what had previously been done and this has not exactly happened as we all hoped for. How much harder it is to change things when there is no overwhelming reason for the change.

      2. Of course there’s an overwhelming reason to change. From [Zed]’s comment: “The state and county have committed to reducing carbon emissions 70% by 2050, the city has committed to being carbon neutral, and the state, by law, has committed to reducing per-capita VMT 18% by 2020 and 50% by 2050.”

      3. No there isn’t an overwhelming reason to change the current plan. The project gets delayed for years. We can add Light Rail later on when the new bridge deck is finished and there is funding in place for the new approach. By 2050, you will have your Light Rail on the bridge, but for the meantime, we need to come up with incremental steps to build up to that.

        In your view, is the mayor doing a great job in churning up all of this stuff? So far, he has shown he cannot work with the City Council and he has not many friends in Olympia. It is not really a great idea to annoy both the City Council and the Governor of our state and I could and did tell you this was likely to happen before you all leapt over the parapet and voted for him last year. Like I said, the ramifications of former mayor, Greg Nickels not getting through the primary last year are still an on-going concern. Nothing is settling yet.

      4. “By 2050, you will have your Light Rail on the bridge, but for the meantime, we need to come up with incremental steps to build up to that.”

        How is adding two (and potentially four) more lanes of capacity building up to that? We’re going in the wrong direction. It’s ok to stop a process that is headed in the wrong direction, it’s not ok to finish it just to get it done.

      5. //In 1960 (50 years ago) we thought 520 was a great solution to our transportation needs.// I read something interesting today on WSDOT’s website. When built it was designed for 65k cars a day. Now we’re up to 115k cars (thanks to induced demand). Back then 520 was really a highway to nowhere, and the demand that was built from it came from sprawl.

        How many cars are we designing this new 6-lane (really 8-lane) parking lot? How much further will we develop? How many more cars will this put on the road, each commuting further than the last one?

      6. Well, the new 520 will still be a great new leap forward without Light Rail being built on it immediately. Let’s concentrate on getting it across the I-90 first – which is what got voted in 2008. No one has a plan at all other than McGinn and his polsters for bringing Light Rail across the 520. How would it impact the connections with University Link and East Link.

        Let’s get the new bridge going, stick on the HOV lanes which lets face it, as a ‘three-person’ car pool will chiefly be for buses anyway and go from there. As future buses will in all likelihood be hybrids or totally electic driven, then they will be carbon neutral.

      7. The problem is that no one has the slightest idea how light rail will get to and from the bridge deck because no serious engineering study has been performed. Right now the state’s claim that the new bridge “will support future light rail” is contingent on widening the bridge and adding new pontoons. I’d hardly call this being ready for light rail. People have been lead to believe that the HOV lanes can simply be converted to light rail, this is not the case. Whether light rail is put on the bridge now or in the future, the corridor needs to be designed and built from day one to easily support the addition of light rail. The current design in no way supports the addition of light rail.

      8. WSDOT predicts 16000 HOVs in the lanes on opening day. They don’t have a plan for increasing the requirement of number of passengers if the lane is clogged. Until such a plan exists, the HOV lane being a dependable transit lane is a fantasy.

      9. Even if the requirement is upped based on a performance metric for 520, there’s the issue of the congestion once you get off 520 itself. And furthermore, policies can be changed; pavement is basically forever. Among the risks is that the HOV lane will be turned into a HOT lane, such that the total volume of traffic overwhelms Seattle streets. That 16,000 or 17,000 could become triple that quite easily, though congestion at the exits would be a constraint before we got to that point.

      10. A reasonable proposal might be to make the entire bridge HOV-2, with a pair of HOV-5 lanes. That would effectively control the traffic.

        Good luck. :-(

    2. I don’t think it’s fair to characterize this as changing for changes’ sake. McGinn has always been pretty explicit about his focus on climate change as a serious and immediate crisis and all of his actions on infrastructure are consistent with that framework — less car infrastructure and more transit infrastructure.

      1. I don’t have a problem with his long term vision, Martin, merely with his plans to bring them forth. The confrontational approach he has is way too out there for the budget and democratic constraints that exist at present. Better to get from A to B incrementally via C than driving these plans through directly, annoying everyone in his path.

  16. If we build light rail across 520 sooner rather than later — even if it just terminates above ground at Husky Stadium Station for now — I’d be fine with letting the HOVs have their lane.

    Where would it go on the other side? Microsoft, I presume. Transferring to East Link at Overlake Station to head to Bellevue is a mere few minutes’ wait. Big deal. Just like, as Mayor McGinn pointed out, transferring on an elevator between two rail lines at Husky Stadium Station is just not going to be a big deal for those riding those lines.

    If we have have rail, I won’t worry about the buses. They can offload at various eastside stations, and have a dependably super-fast whisk across Lake Washington.

    But the design of rail on 520 is something altogether different than the design of a transit lane.

    No money? Require the tolling to last long enough to build this rail spur, as it is an integral part of the bridge.

    Demand? As many on all sides of the debate have pointed out, 520 will be gridlocked from day one after it is rebuilt. Eastside commuters will flock to this rail spur in droves, as it will be much faster than driving the bridge, and could feature the best view in town.

    I bet it could be done a lot more cheaply than the proposed $2 billion tunnel connection into the Link tunnel.

    1. “Where would it go on the other side?”

      520 Link could follow 520 to the South Kirkland P&R, which is conveniently located adjacent to the old BNSF railroad right-of-way. From here it could follow the BNSF ROW under 405 and 520 for about a mile to the vicinity of NE 120th and NE 16th where it would connect with East Link.

      1. With the configuration Zed describes, eastbound trains from the UW would have a cross-platform transfer at the 124th St. station (in the redeveloping Bel-Red area) to access westbound trains to Bellevue. This yields double the train frequency between 124th and Redmond, without pushing the constraints on I-90 or through downtown Bellevue. It also gets rid of the 7 minute diversion for the 545 heading inbound from Redmond, without having to reconfigure the NE 40th St. intersection for HOV direct access.

        If I were a developer planning to build anything in the Bel-Red area, I would be enthusiastic about this approach.

      2. If a 520 light rail line is built the logical thing to do on the East side of Lake Washington would be to have the line head South along the BNSF ROW and join with East Link. The line would share the Hospital, Downtown Bellevue, Main, and S. Bellevue P&R stations with East Link. The line could then head East along I-90 to Eastgate and Issaquah.

        While it doesn’t provide a single seat ride between Issaquah and Downtown Seattle, Issaquah and Redmond, or Redmond and the UW there are 3 stations where riders can transfer. Most information I’ve seen says rail to rail transfers don’t incur nearly the same ridership penalties that rail to bus transfers do.

    2. Demand? As many on all sides of the debate have pointed out, 520 will be gridlocked from day one after it is rebuilt.

      I think both the 520 and I-90 bridges should have some form of congestion tolling implemented. Ideally the rates would vary in real-time as necessary to keep traffic moving at 45 MPH. The toll rather than the congestion would serve as the incentive for people to use alternatives to driving alone.

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