520 Bridge under construction, 1962 (wikimedia)

While agreeing with almost all of Ben’s post on 520, I’d like to make a subtle distinction about what I think should happen, as opposed to what will.

I agree that it is extremely unlikely the State will modify the bridge to easily accommodate light rail, as that would cost more than $400m and introduce some project delay. I agree that 520 is not a particularly high priority for rail and probably isn’t even in the cards for ST3. And I agree that in the abstract a Sand Point/Kirkland alignment is superior to one over 520, although I’d add several more shades of uncertainty on that point in the absence of any serious engineering analysis on either corridor.

Given that uncertainty, it would certainly be nice if we preserved the option of going over 520. The question is how much that is worth. I’ll leave comment on how McGinn is or is not damaging his relationship with Olympia to the political hacks. From a pure resource-allocation perspective, it’s really a question of where the hundreds of millions come from, and how much of it must be done during the bridge’s construction.

If it comes from the gas tax kitty for the bridge, then that’s great; taking gas tax revenue reduces the pernicious things the State can do with it.  If it’s coming from somewhere else (a TBD, tolling, or anything else that could be used for transit) I’d agree with Ben that there are other priorities that are more important on both the East and West side, especially since we may not need that investment after all.  Similarly, if most of the required changes can be deferred to the moment of rail construction, and the immediate needs are relatively inexpensive, then the core objection that the bridge is not rail-ready is a stronger one.

I don’t think Mayor McGinn’s planning has advanced to the point of seriously looking at immediate costs and revenue sources, but they are crucial to the validity of his points.

68 Replies to ““Will”, “Should,” and 520”

  1. You say that 520 is a high priority for rail. Does Sound Transit (or anyone else) have a listing of what corridors are a priority for rail. I would say that after ST2 the lines I would like to say are

    1. West Side of Seattle
    2. Ballard to UW (and Eastside?)
    3. ??

    Can you name some that are higher priorities than these two? Thanks.

    1. That right there is perhaps $7 billion, which will likely tap us out on the Seattle end.


      1. I use the monorail tax as a measure at about 2 billion. I think the realistic share for each ST package might be up to twice that. So, I would think that realistically we can think about Seattle voters funding about $10 billion on rail in the next decade. That is why the 520 debate is so critical. We have to decide what we should build. I would start with Jeff’s list and then maybe look at Lake City/522. Where do we want density? I think Lake City Way is perfect and already has a head start.

      2. You’re right, $7b is definitely on the high end of what it would cost, but then when you factor in the fact that there will likely be a new federal transportation bill that could put twice as much money into transit, it starts to look like we could definitely do it.

    2. Snohomish County and Pierce County are eager to see Link extensions north and south to Everett and Tacoma, and there is interest extending Tacoma Link, but those would draw from a different revenue pool. There’s also interest in serving Factoria, Eastgate and Issaquah in a subsequent phase.

      Meanwhile, I know there is great interest from parties such as Microsoft in extending East Link to downtown Redmond. That investment could be further leveraged if we built light rail on 520, as the 520 rail service could feed into it as well.

      Indeed, there are tradeoffs and issues with any routing — that’s why a proper planning study is warranted.

      1. So, we could build light rail on 520 that went to Redmond, and then we’d be investing billions to not serve Kirkland again.

      2. South Kirkland could easily be directly served by the 520 line, as could the Bel-Red corridor. As it stands, neither is served by the 545. Once rail is on the BNSF ROW all sorts of additional routes become possible from there. Downtown Kirkland and Totem Lake are basically along that line. One can imagine some diversions from the BNSF ROW to optimize station locations.

      3. South Kirkland P&R is on the BNSF ROW and could be tied into Eastlink if the cost warranted it. A streetcar that continued down Northup and then along Lake Washington Blvd is about the only way DT Kirkland will see rail of any kind. It might be possible to even continue north via 100th all the way to Bothell but getting over/around/through the hump leaving Kirkland would be an issue. The BNSF ROW doesn’t serve DT Kirkland at all, it’s closer to 405 than DT where it crosses NE 85th. It just barely touches the southern light industrial zoning through Totem Lake. It’s nowhere near Evergreen Medical which is really the only thing that could be call high density (buildings more than four stories tall). Getting through Houghton would make Surry Downs seem like a bunch of transit advocates plus I highly doubt the City of Kirkland is going to want light rail pushed through the middle of their new nature preserve which is along the ROW south of Par-Mac industrial park. And there are very few places where you can deviate any appreciable distance from the existing route because of geography and lack of any existing arterials. Most of the east side is covered with single family residential with small isolated pockets of strip malls and light industrial.

      4. Light rail on 520 that went to Redmond would be the cost of installing track from UW station across 520 to DT Bellevue, where it could interline with East Link. If you appropriated enough money to 520 light rail as you would to get a new bridge across Lake Washington, you could get UW-Bellevue-Redmond and UW-Kirkland light rail.

      5. That would be the cost, but the benefit would be low compared to serving Kirkland. This isn’t just one number.

      6. I think alexjonlin’s point was that light rail on 520 might not really be prohibitively expensive, and an alternative such as a new floating bridge from Sand Point to Kirkland to carry light rail would cost a great deal of money, and if you instead applied those (hypothetical) funds toward lines that went over 520, you might be able to connect to all three of Kirkland, Bellevue and Redmond.

      7. Connecting the four metropolitan centers of the Puget Sound region has to be the #1 priority for any future light rail investments (a spur or extension to Microsoft being the notable excetption). After that work is complete, criss-cross King County with as many light rail lines as people are willing to stomach.

      8. I think that can easily be acheived in ST3 and then some. About 28 more miles of rail corridors will link Tacoma and Everett in.

      9. Sub-area equity means you can build other things while you connect Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, and Everett. Bellevue and Seattle will be connected in ST2. Extending to Everett and Tacoma means that there is a fair bit of cash left to spend in the North and East King sub-areas. It also likely means a good sized chunk of change left for use in the South King sub-area (Star Lake to the county line should be fairly cheap).

    3. Overlake to DT Redmond I think would be top of the list for eastside subarea money . There’s no money for that or an eastside MF in ST2. From Redmond extend north on the old BNSF spur to Bothell (UW/Cascadia) and/or the SR522 and hwy 9 interchange. I don’t see a sales tax in excess of 10% being earmarked for ST (Seattle may chose to “go it alone” on additional funding). We’re 2% higher than some other counties in the State and amongst the highest in the nation. That means there won’t be any money to expand until 2037 and assuming the .4% from Sound Move will be sufficient to cover operational costs.

      1. That BNSF spur is through a really low-density area. It bypasses Woodinville’s retail center, and it doesn’t quite make it to UWB/Cascadia, and it’s at least 6 miles long. There are some office buildings on one side along Willows Road but mostly the rails run alongside empty fields and a golf course.

        It would be great for me personally–I ride my bike along the trail that’s on the other side of the same valley from Bothell to Redmond, and it would be nice to have a rail alternative–but it’s not a good alignment for light rail. Maybe it would work for longer-distance commuter rail from Snohomish to Redmond via Woodinville, but I doubt it.

        What we need, after extending East Link to downtown Redmond, is a connection to Kirkland (and then on to Bothell). You could probably use some of the BNSF alignment from the Bel-Red area to Kirkland, with new track being laid at some point to reach a downtown Kirkland station, but every other Kirkland-area station would be just as accessible with light rail that mostly goes along 405. You could also get to Kirkland from downtown Redmond via Redmond Way/85th.

      2. Actually there were tracks on the south side of the slough as far in as Bothell Landing. Ride along there sometime and you’ll see some of the structures that were once served by rail cars and the overhead clearance. It’s really apparent right across the street from the senior center. A rail bridge could be constructed to cross the slough and serve the campus as well as the P&R lot but it would be pretty expensive. Maybe it would make sense if the line were to continue north along 405 to Lynwood. For the time being there’s a fairly pedestrian and bike friendly route to get you across both 522 and the slough.

        Woodinville doesn’t have much of a retail center (much of anything for that matter) but the tracks run right alongside the Woodinville Mall (they really call it that) and not far from the P&R but neither is much of a draw. A big P&R close to the Brightwater treatment plant might make the most sense for drawing in regional commuters and intercepting traffic before the busy 522/405 interchange. And Highway 9 is heavily used too. Woodinville P&R has totally crappy freeway access; especially coming in from the north on 522.

        Kirkland to Redmond over Rose Hill is pretty steep on both sides. The road is already gridlock during rush hour and I doubt there would be much support for widening it. DT Kirkland isn’t very big. It makes more sense to just use Link to get to Bellevue and concentrate on the higher priority Bellevue to Kirkland connection.

      3. The rail road tracks on the south side of the slough don’t make it to Bothell. There is a part of a turning Y in Woodinville on the south side of the slough near where Hwy 202 crosses the slough and a spur into an business park on the north side, but neither make it to the senior center in Bothell.

      4. They don’t anymore but the used to. I suspect they were abandon when the old mill went out of business. There’s a few places where the rail is still in the ground.

      5. I did some digging and it appears that this ROW was part of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway which we know today as the Burke-Gilman trail. The line connected Woodinville and Bothell. I’m thinking that it may have remained with BNSF until recently sold because there is a skybridge near the senior center which is obviously newer than when the tracks were abandon yet the height looks like it was because there was a stipulation to maintain clearance for the tracks.

        Good old parcel viewer. Looks like it’s Parcel Number 0826059080 and it’s owned by King County. The county owns all the way back to where the stub/turn around tracks are in Woodinville so if the recent purchase by the Port gets turned into a bike trail we’ll have a straight through connection to the Burke Gilman. Or, if it gets used by an extension to East Link there is a clear ROW into Bothell (although it would require taking it out of the rail bank which might be a tough sell even though the trail proper doesn’t use this section.

      6. Bernie,

        I see the parcel you are talking about, and it appears that it paralels East Riverside Drive on the north. Looking up the real estate records, this was transferred from a Keith and Barbara Moore in September of 1997 to the City of Bothell. So BNSF gave it up a long time ago.

        Having driven along that road many times, I have never seen tracks alongside it. In fact, recently there has been sewer work on that side of the road, and I didn’t see any tracks being taken out. The skybridge at the senior center, built a few years ago, may be tall due to the fact that large trucks use the road to get to a number of lumber companies along it.

        So this is an old ROW that the tracks were removed from many, many years ago. Still, legally it is a ROW that the county now owns, and could be used for a variety of purposes.

      7. My assumption is there will be some form of new tax authority or revenue for ST3. My guess would be an MVET, a slice of congestion tolling revenue, or a sales tax on gas. Even without that since ST only bonds 50% of the project cost there will be at least some cash flow above and beyond the revenue needed to fund operations and paying off the bonds.

        In any case assuming there is a funding source for ST3 (and beyond) both the North and East King sub areas should have a fairly healthy amount of cash available since these are proportionally the highest population areas and the ones with the largest tax bases.

      8. I’m guessing ST3 will give the East subarea at least DT Redmond Link and an East Link branch to Issaquah. If there’s more money still they could incorporate an extension to Kirkland into there too.

  2. Lost in this debate thus far is the fact that for some period of time (some would say, a very long time), we will be depending on buses alone running on the new bridge to handle the transit demand, as nobody thinks the environmental process for designing and constructing a full light rail line can be completed by 2014 or even 2016. Perhaps there is a solution that delivers real and reliable BRT quickly, but also enables light rail. That would seem to cover all the bases. “A+” does not do this.

    As for what it would take to support light rail on the bridge itself, I’m not sure what it would cost. I wouldn’t assume it’s greater than $400M. Delay has a cost, but until we’ve done a proper planning study, it would seem quite premature to foreclose once in a lifetime opportunities like building light rail on the new SR 520 floating bridge. I agree with the consultant that we are unlikely to have the stomach or the funding capability to construct the 520 corridor twice in the next few decades, considering how hard it is to do it once.

    1. As the link indicates, when the State scaled down the pontoons that saved $400m. That’s the pontoons alone.

      1. I believe that was assuming that light rail was going to be in addition to HOV lanes. There are those who believe the enabling legislation is deliberately ambiguous on whether light rail would be in addition to, or in place of, HOV lanes. Regardless, there are very different interpretations of what has been agreed upon.

        The cost to support 4 GP lanes + light rail (rather than 4 GP lanes + 2 HOV lanes + light rail) would presumably exceed the cost of the currently planned configuration (4 GP lanes plus 2 HOV lanes) by some amount less than $400M.

      2. And that was two years ago. In the interim, we’ve designed and contracted out pontoon construction, so you’d have to start over.

      3. According to what I can gather from WSDOT the bridge is still designed to have pontoons added so it can support light rail. Would it be better to add them before the bridge opens? Probably, if the other design changes can still be made. I don’t believe the bridge deck portion is finalized so the extra width needed could likely still be added now rather than trying to rebuild/re-stripe it later.

        Of course even with the pontoon contract started the state doesn’t have the money it needs to complete the entire corridor, even with tolls.

        Furthermore with the current A+ mess there is a huge potential for lawsuits challenging all or part of the project. If the City of Seattle or other Government joins in then really watch things drag out. Depending on how determined the plaintiffs are and how the courts see things the entire project might be drug out another 20 years.

      4. Building pontoons is not rocket science. They’re just big concrete boxes. Imagining you can actually save $400m by making them 6 feet narrower is total b-s.

      5. I think as was pointed out elsewhere the current pontoon contract is just for enough pontoons to do an emergency replacement of 520 should it start to sink in a storm. Additional pontoons will be added for the final 6 lane bridge and at least according to the WSDOT site still more can be added to support light rail.

        I’m not exactly sure where the state is saving $400 million by not making the bridge “rail ready” but I guess cutting the extra pontoons and lighter engineering for the bridge deck accounts for at least some of it.

        In any case I think it is good to have this consultant’s report from the City of Seattle. It points out where some of the promises WSDOT made in order to get various interested parties to sign off on the bridge are rather empty.

        At this point the real question is it worth the energy to keep WSDOT from making such a poor decision (light rail on 520 not a realistic option during the lifetime of the bridge) and making sure there aren’t any amendment 18 concerns with future transit-only lanes and/or light rail? I assume the cost of delays and making the bridge rail-ready is most likely to simply give the state less money to widen 405, extend 167, or build the cross-base highway.

        The danger is by focusing on rail across the bridge there won’t be enough effort put into improving transit, bike, and pedestrian access to, from, through, and across the corridor. At the very least if a second bascule bridge is built across the cut it should be designed to allow rail across it at some point in the future. Not necessarily for light rail in the 520 corridor but for a potential streetcar or light rail along the route of the 48.

    2. Yeah, and considering the pontoons are already out to contract, it would be more than $400m in cost difference for JUST them even now.

      Add more for an interchange – another $200-300 million?

      1. I believe that only the pontoons to replace the existing bridge are in that contract. The remainder of the pontoons needed for a 6-lane bridge would come later.

  3. Are there changes which, in addition to facilitating light rail conversion, would also result in a better bridge in the intervening years? And could these changes extend the efficient working life of the new bridge? It would be worth a lot not to have to finish my life listening to thirty more years of wailing over one more thing obsolete the day it opened.

    Right now, I would settle for a bridge that worked really well for bus transit- meaning station stops and ramp-accessed transit lanes that car traffic can’t block. Maybe we could do like we did with the Downtown Tunnel: build it for trains, run it with buses-only designed so it wouldn’t take two years to refit.

    Mike McGinn may be technically right or wrong about light rail on this particular corridor. But he’s not the only one who thinks that in 2010, the State of Washington needs to understand that its responsibility for transporting people does not end the minute they park their cars.

    Mark Dublin

      1. Their only responsibility is to the legislature – and the legislature is strongly in favor of continuing with A+.

        When did you convince yourself that “because it’s right” is going to change things?

      2. Because you yourself haven’t made that argument with respect to the Alaskan Way tunnel?

  4. Even if we could convince the State to modify their plans to make 520 LR-ready, the State certainly isn’t going to contribute any meaningful $$$ towards the effort. The State would surely look to either Seattle or ST to contribute the funds, and that wouldn’t make any sense at all – why lock-up a large chunk of “now-year” $$$ into a LR-ready facility that won’t see LR for decades (if ever)?

    Best take those Seattle $$$’s and spend them in Seattle now so they can make an impact now.

    1. That’s been my issue with the premise of light rail on 520 this whole time. Why expend so much capital in this issue now? Why put Seattle on the hook for these costs now?

      We already have planned and funded cross-lake light rail set to open in ten years. I don’t imagine that the city — and the region — would be so generous as to approve light rail over 520 now, and then approve more light rail from West Seattle to Ballard next year.

      In a perfect world, we’d have trains everywhere. But that will, unfortunately, take time and money. We don’t have much money, but we do have time. Mike McGinn banging the city over the head with LIGHT RAIL LIGHT RAIL LIGHT RAIL seems, to me at least, to have the potential to do far more harm to the cause than good.

  5. Again, lost in all this back and forth is the simple fundamental fact that Sound Transit is interested in putting light rail on 520, but had planned on studying the issue in 2016. It makes infinitely more sense to figure out if light rail will work on the bridge before you rebuild the bridge. The costs of modifying that Martin cites need to be compared against the economic and political costs of asking for a retrofit two or three years after a rebuild.

      1. Near-term, sure. But light-rail will absolutely be considered as part of the 520 high-capacity transit study ST will undertake in 2016.

      2. “considering”something is not the same as “promoting” something. ST’s study is little more than that — a study. And it is highly likely to identify 520 as a better BRT corridor than a LR corridor.

      3. Not what I’m hearing, but I’ll guess we’ll have to wait and see. ;-)

    1. Logistically, I think the hardest thing to come back and do later is the gap between the lanes at Foster Island. That would also be one of the easiest changes for WSDOT to incorporate now. Modifications to the floating bridge, as currently proposed by WSDOT, would be expensive but relatively straightforward.

    2. Actually, ST is not interested in putting LR on SR 520. They have agreed to study it at a latter date, but that is a far cry from what you assert.

  6. So were they just kidding when they passed this?


    “On July 7, 2005, the Sound Transit Board adopted the following changes to Sound Transit’s Long-Range Plan, which was originally adopted in 1996:” “Designated Seattle-to-Redmond via Bellevue as Light Rail Transit or Rail Convertible BRT.”

    Plan A+ would seem to be inconsistent with this long range plan, as it is neither light rail nor rail convertible BRT, according to the Mayor’s consultant’s report.

      1. Yes, it is. You are correct. I should have used this:

        “Designated Northgate-to-Bothell and University District-to-Redmond as HCT corridors.”

        So I guess it depends on what you consider “HCT” (High Capacity Transit) to mean; it can include BRT but it doesn’t necessarily imply BRT; light rail is definitely one form of HCT.

        What I don’t know is whether it’s considered OK to make a mode decision indirectly (by precluding light rail on 520) without going through the requisite planning process where you analyze alternatives. To put this another way, we presently don’t know what we would be losing out on by precluding light rail on 520, and that is, at the very least, unfortunate.

      2. If adding light rail to 520 increases the footprint through Montlake and the Arboretum as the mayor’s report says it would, and if it also would have to include yet another bridge across the cut or the bay, I can’t believe anyone seriously thinks we should do it. I am a huge supporter of light rail, but come on, they should never have built this bridge through a sensitive natural area to begin with. Let’s not make a bad project worse by widening the bridge even more. We have other routes for light rail that make more sense and don’t make this bridge bigger than the monstrosity it already will be.

      3. Indeed, the entire highway should never have been built in this location in the early 1960’s, for a great many reasons.

        The vision the Mayor has described could actually shrink the footprint west of the point where a light rail line would diverge from the mainline of 520.

        Regardless, the state’s current plans include a new drawbridge over the cut that can never be used for light rail, fails to make buses reliable or transfers more convenient, causes numerous avoidable environmental impacts and costs $81 million we don’t have. The only reason it’s there is because it’s an old and obvious idea that got revived during the mediation process for comparative analysis, alongside other new crossings of the cut that attempted to make the direct transit connection without a drawbridge. It has significant avoidable environmental impacts and harms two Seattle landmarks: The Montlake Bridge and the ship canal itself. That second drawbridge is a bad and unnecessary idea and it needs to go.

        If we’re serious about improving transit in this area (and we should be!) and we are willing to spend at least $81 million to improve this, we desperately need a systemic solution for the pedestrian, bicycle, transit and traffic circulation around the triangle at the UW.

        We also need to figure out how to achieve transit and emergency vehicle reliability up Montlake Blvd. to U Village and Children’s Hospital. The second drawbridge doesn’t achieve that because the excess capacity doesn’t get used; mostly it’s an expensive queuing area for overloaded intersections on either side. A southbound HOV lane from U Village to Pacific St. is one cheap, low-impact way (not necessarily the only way) to address the Montlake Blvd. problem.

      4. Let’s also remember that for a period of time ST had designated I-90 as a HCT corridor. At the time only Sound Move had passed, ST2 was a long way off, and there wasn’t money for anything other than express buses to the Eastside.

        Just because ST has said a particular corridor is an HCT corridor doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in running rail in the corridor some time in the future.

        Assume ST manages to get a Sound Move or ST2 sized expansion package passed every decade or so. How long before 520 starts looking like a really good corridor to put rail in? Likely well before the “new” 520 bridge needs to be replaced. Especially if the PSRC population growth projections are anywhere near accurate. Maybe Ben is right and by that time a fourth Lake Washington bridge for rail will be feasible from both a financial and political standpoint.

        Then again maybe Seattle will be the next Detroit and the city will be full of abandoned buildings. Or maybe energy is so expensive we’re all reduced to a pre-industrial lifestyle.

  7. It’s at times like this that I say “Thank God for democracy”, and by ‘democracy’, I mean, “People who don’t really know that much about it”.

    Just yesterday a small poll was released showing that a little over half the people asked thought the new bridge should have provisions for rail transit. But here on the “Seattle Transit Blog” the most learned and authoritative commenters are telling us why this should not, can not, must not be.

    At the bottom line, the state wants to build a larger bridge that will bring more cars into Seattle. Montlake residents are quite rightly concerned that many of those cars will use Montlake exits as they go on to burden a street system never designed for these volumes of traffic. McGinn’s consultants have pointed out that the current proposal, in practice, cannot be retrofitted for rail- there is no silver lining to the current cloud.

    To me this is not a tough call to make. If we are fated to rebuild the present bridge, it should include provisions for rail transit. The expansion of the current replacement plans would be trivial, and the potential future payoff, huge. If this simplistic thinking marks me as part of the great unwashed, so be it.

    1. I’m not sure how you get “should not, cannot, must not” from “would certainly be nice”, but ditr.

      Of course, you’ve been crapping all over Ballard/WS light rail, so why not blow that money on bridge modifications that will be used in decades, if ever?

      1. Martin, your post was *almost* neutral. I was, however, referring also to other posters and commenters, and I don’t think you’ll need to read too much to see some of the opinions I referred to.

        Other than that, if my questions and opinions make me look stupid to STB people, I can live with that.

      2. Sorry, my comment came out more hostile then it should have.

        There is of course no plan, wonderful or not. But I recall you’ve been quite hostile to McGinn’s planning on this front.

      3. This is a misconception, and I have tried to be extremely careful, both in reading news and commenting on it, as we all know there is a great deal of emotion surrounding the tunnel issue.

        I have been hostile to McGinn for lying to the public about the costs and possible savings around the tunnel issue during his campaign.

        Whether I would be hostile to McGinn’s plan remains to be seen. If all of my comments here could be reviewed, you would see I have always said traffic lanes should be taken to run light rail/streetcars. If this were done, I think rail transit could be run from Ballard to downtown, or West Seattle to downtown, for a very modest price, as these things go. McGinn recently echoed a comment I made here a year ago, that 15th NW appeared to be an obvious choice for such a Ballard-Downtown route.

        As pleased as I am that McGinn seems to share my thinking on this matter, I have to remember that on March 22 “He hasn’t gotten to the point of studying how that might happen, and whether it would go to a vote, or what the funding source would be,” McGinn spokesman Mark Matassa said. “At this point, it’s just something to be discussed.”

        Hopefully this will clear up some of the confusion about my comments on this matter.

      4. From what I’ve gathered Richard Conlin seems to have put more thought into his proposal for rail transit to West Seattle and Ballard. But then Conlin has been around long enough to have a pretty good idea of what has already been studied, and what is practical from a ridership, financial, and political standpoint.

    2. Serial catowner

      I don’t understand where you stand on anything I’m afraid. Sometimes I think you agree with me that Mayor McGinn is not a good mayor for Seattle, othertimes you seem to be to the left of us, othertimes way to the right of us. I hardly think you can accuse the STB Board of not favoring Light Rail on the 520 as they have been strong advocates of it since McGinn found a poll supporting the idea. If they are not now in favor, I don’t think it is the principle of the thing they have shifted on but simply the practical financial and logistical realities of it. There is nothing wrong with that. Everything gets built or not built for these reasons around here.

      So help me out here?
      Where do you stand on McGinn, Light Rail, the tunnel and the 520 because I am confused. I like to think that I am clear in my views and how I explain them, but I don’t get where you position yourself in all this.

      Perhaps you are just a contrarian?

      1. In this format, I don’t think where I stand should be as important as what I say. I don’t even try to figure out myself anymore where I stand.

        I do consider McGinn to be an untrustworthy demagogue. I consider it to be very unfortunate that in some larger views he is 100% correct, as I imagine that in the future this will carry him to heights where he can do even more damage to the civil process and the green movement.

        As long as STB has an open comments process, it doesn’t matter to me whether they endorse light rail on 520 or not. If I don’t like it, I can leave a comment!

        What I do, when I read a puzzling comment that appears to be factually correct, is to ask myself, what is this person saying? How does that relate to my view of the world? Should I hit up the old Wiki for a reality check?

        This, I find, makes the old internets more interesting.

  8. ST missed the boat when they decided to run the initial light rail line to the eastside over I-90. The time to study this was 1996, not 2016. I think they didn’t believe 520 would be rebuilt before they were ready to build Link. That failure to recognize the limited lifespan of ferocement barges means instead of the better route over a new bridge we get a route that precludes 520 as being useful running across a bridge that will be in the later half of it’s lifespan when the system opens.

    That’s all water under the floating bridge (better than the alternative of water over the floating bridge) but there’s one scenario where 520 might come back into play; and that’s if ST isn’t able to use I-90. Unlikely yes but make up your favorite reason, FHA decides to keep it’s traffic lanes, another bridge sinks during a construction project and it becomes uninsurable, it’s found out that train noise is fatal to recently discovered Deviled Doh Doh eggs on Mercer Island, whatever. Now 520 becomes the only choice but it’s already built without the ability to add rail. So what? Shutting down the bridge for years of construction and taking a traffic lane, even if it’s an HOV lane is never going to fly even if the bridge was rail ready (not to mention the whole gas tax constitutionality thing). The obvious solution is to float a parallel bridge along the alignment of the existing one. It would probably be cheaper than retrofitting the new bridge just like new construction is often cheaper per square foot than a remodel.

    1. 1) The decision to put rail on I-90 first was made during the early years of the Trans-Lake Washington Project (now called the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Project) somewhere around 2002. It really didn’t have anything to do with a lack of confidence in SR 520 actually being replaced in time to build light rail to Bellevue.

      2) You wouldn’t need to shut down the new SR 520 bridge to add light rail in the future. With the bridge deck separate from the pontoons, expanding the deck is a fairly straightforward project once you have addressed the buoyancy of the pontoons. Bridges get widened all the time without shutting down traffic.

      1. Actually the decision to make I-90 capable of supporting rail happened way back in the mid-70’s. The notion of getting rail transit to Bellevue via I-90 dates back at least as far as the two Forward Thrust ballot measures.

    2. Bernie,
      Even if both I-90 and 520 were the same age and 100% rail-ready I-90 is the better corridor for the first rail transit crossing of the lake. STB has written extensively on why 520 is not the ideal corridor for the only lake crossing. Two that come to mind are a 520 only alignment would require its own ROW between downtown and the bridge due to capacity issues with U-Link. Second a 520 line would either not serve Bellevue or require substantial backtracking to get to both Downtown Bellevue and Overlake.

      Besides while you might be hoping to avoid certain NIMBY issues with the current East Link routing I’m sure there would be a whole different but just as contentious set of issues with East Link via 520.

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