Commenter cjh has a fair point:
[STB is] willing to go to the barricades to fight and delay other “done deals” (e.g. the execrable Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel plan), which delays will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. However, they will accept the decision of the powers that be in this case because it is agreeable to their pre-existing position…
For the record, I think the deep-bore tunnel is very likely to happen, given its deep political support. If anything kills it, it’s likely to be the design spiraling out of control, or some sort of Brightwater-style engineering catastrophe. Given the fact that there is, in my view, a superior surface/transit option, that also happens to cost considerably less, I’ll take my opportunities to point out that I think that the project is, at its core, unnecessary, and the highly questionable specifics of the viaduct deal.
I also think the current WSDOT plan for 520 is likely to proceed with at most mild alterations to the West side. I think some simple changes, mentioned repeatedly, could greatly improve transit access. On the other hand, the larger changes that Mayor McGinn has implied aren’t tied to any specific plan for the bridge.
That’s not a shot at the Mayor, who’s been in office for just over 3 months, has few planning resources, and whose first task is to blow up the coalition that has coalesced around the current plan. At different times, though, he’s hinted at light rail on the bridge immediately, tracks laid in the lanes, structural changes to allow for rail, and reduction of the Portage Bay crossing to four lanes. More after the jump.
I can’t speak for Ben or John, but there are 520 plans that I would strongly support. If Speaker Chopp, supposed McGinn ally, came out with a plan to fund the needed structural improvements with gas tax money, or even increase tolling revenue to fund Sound Transit to plan and build light rail in the 520 corridor, I think you’ll find most or all of us advocating for it nonstop. At the other extreme, if the City has to use its taxing authority — which will barely be able to fund rail to Ballard and West Seattle, if that — to merely maintain the possibility of 520 light rail many decades in the future, that would be an awful trade.
In reality, if a concrete alternative emerges it’ll be somewhere between those scenarios. I can’t tell you how I’d come down on a plan whose basic contours haven’t been established, but I will commit to try to keep an open mind.