PubliCola reports on a letter (text here) the Seattle City Council sent to WSDOT about modifications to the west side of the 520 bridge. It’s worth going into in some detail, as a pretty good example of what can be achieved to improve transit without sending WSDOT back to the drawing board.
Crucially, the Council asserts that the proposed modifications fit within the $4.65 billion budget for the project and require no additional EIS, preventing delays. I’m not deeply concerned about avoiding delays for their own sake, but am eager to avoid pouring substantial additional resources into marginal transit improvements.
There are about a dozen transit-related recommendations, most of which are great; some are suboptimal but hardly terrible. More after the jump.
- Signal priority and “queue jumps” for transit at key intersections. This is a pretty obvious requirement to have a decent connection between bridge and light rail station.
- Dedicated HOV/transit lanes on Montlake Blvd, at least between the Link Station and Lake Washington Blvd., and possibly further up Montlake and as far South as Madison and 23rd Ave. Again, a no-brainer.
- Direct mitigation funds to improve the pedestrian environment around the UW station.
- Split the bridge through Foster Island and the Arboretum to allow light rail in future. Avoid doing anything else stupid, like construct an overpass that would have to be demolished, that blocks construction of light rail later.
- Build bike/ped routes to Seattle standards: 16 ft for ped routes, 12 ft. for bicycles.
- Put mandatory triggers in the law to raise HOV thresholds when speeds fall below 45 mph more than 5% of the time; come up with general-purpose lane performance standards and institute dynamic tolling to achieve them.
- Begin environmental review of a “high bridge” over the cut for light rail or BRT, before construction plans for the west side are finalized.
- Move HOV/Transit ramps to exit at 24th Ave. instead of Montlake Blvd. This adds about two blocks of surface streets for buses to traverse and is done to reduce impacts on the neighborhood. It’s a slight inconvenience to riders.
- The State should “work with Metro and ST to ensure… an adequate base level of mid-day service” over 520. There should really be an explicit request for some tolling funds to go to this purpose.
- The Montlake flyer stops do not figure in this change request. I’ve editorialized before that this is a bummer but is less of a big deal than people think.
- No mention of Ben’s lonely crusade to explicitly designate the tolling revenue for potential rail-related portions of the bridge, so as to avoid 18th-amendment-related lawsuits in the future.
Also of interest, the Council agrees with John that adding additional pontoons for light rail at this time is both premature and prohibitively expensive.
All in all, these seem like reasonable suggestions that the State should accept, although no one ever went broke betting on the fundamental malice of our State government towards transit-related causes. Against my expectations, the Mayor’s separate Nelson/Nygaard study did offer some useful and low-cost critiques of simple modifications that make light rail in the future more plausible.