Dan Bertolet in PubliCola makes a compelling case that we aren’t thinking big enough on 520:
• keep the existing freeway between the water and I-5 (it’s the floating part that’s the safety risk) [UPDATE: Many commenters have pointed out that this is not correct.]
• for a six-lane design, designate two transit lanes, two HOV lanes, and two general purpose lanes
• for a four-lane design, designate two HOV/transit lanes and two general purpose lanes
• for a four-lane design, limit use to transit and HOV only
• and how about the most radical solution of all: take the bridge out and don’t replace it? [See also Knute Berger’s thought-provoking piece on this idea.]
The second, third and fourth of these are all clearly awesome from a transit advocate’s perspective, and would presumably cost less than the WSDOT’s current plan. As a result, they wouldn’t have the effect of robbing funds from higher transit priorities. More after the jump.
The first option is also cheaper, but is a mixed bag in terms of benefits to transit riders. It’s clear that downtown-bound buses would be adversely impacted, but might these buses instead be divered to UW and transfer to Link? This would probably be slower than today’s 255 and 545, and would be disrupted by drawbridge openings, but it would also improve connections to the U-District.
The most radical option — removing the bridge entirely — would probably have positive long-term effects on housing and employment patterns. In the meantime, however, it would make commutes of any type worse, and by radically increasing the distance between major job centers might cause serious economic damage.
The Mayor has previously suggested turning the HOV lane into a transit lane, a decision that would make HOV riders turn into either SOV drivers or transit passengers. The crucial question is which group would be larger. He’s also suggested making sure the bridge is rail-ready, which may or may not be worthwhile depending on how much it costs and who pays for it.
The Council has also made a number of smaller-bore critiques that don’t mess with the 4 GP+2 HOV formula. These are generally worthwhile and, being less significant, are much more likely to be enacted. Meanwhile, Ben has been a voice in the wilderness urging the legislature to fix potential 18th amendment issues, to no avail.