WSDOT SR99 Transit Letter

This weekend, we heard a rumor that WSDOT had found the money to fulfill their promise of viaduct mitigation funding through the opening of the SR99 Deep Bore Tunnel, scheduled for the end of 2015, a commitment which had been cast into doubt a couple of years ago.

This money, which amounted to about 40,000 hours of Metro service per year, was intended to provide drivers an alternative to driving on SR99, and to compensate Metro for increased running times on SR99 routes. Metro had used the money to improve schedule reliability on West Seattle routes, and add trips to high-performing commuter and all-day service in West Seattle, Ballard, and on Aurora. Those added peak trips are packed full of riders, so premature loss of this funding would have resulted in a “pre-bloodbath bloodbath” of cuts in July, falling extremely hard on West Seattle.

The potential loss of this mitigation money was one of the two fiscal swords hanging over Metro this year. The other, even larger one which remains, is the structural post-recession deficit of 600,000 hours per year. King County voters will get a chance to vote on additional revenue for Metro in April.

Quote from Dow:

“This is great news for everyone who commutes on the SR99 corridor, especially those coming from West Seattle and Burien,” says King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Viaduct mitigation has reduced traffic and increased transit use, and will continue to help manage the impacts of construction on businesses and the traveling public.”

17 Replies to “WSDOT Comes Through with Promised SR99 Money”

  1. The sad news here is the implied fact that everybody will go back to driving once the SR 99 DBT is completed and those funds won’t be needed any more. Those 40,000 hours would be handy to accommodate transit ridership growth likely to continue beyond 2015. They would also go much further if buses (and possibly Vanpools and 3+ HOVs) had a direct ramp from the West Seattle Bridge to the bus lane on 99.

    At least we kicked the can down the road for two years this time… Good [temporary] news…

    1. +1. The marginal increase to W. Seattle service should be permanent. The DBT project, even at its best, reduces vehicle capacity that cannot (and should not) be replaced. Keeping those riders choosing transit is incredibly important in perpetuity.

      1. Exactly. Today is the most capacity SR 99 will ever have. The opening of the DBT will only reduce SR 99 capacity even more (ironically).

    2. Yes but these are construction mitigation funds, not a permanent funding source. You can’t expect a WSDOT highway project to pay these years after the highway is finished.

      1. WSDOT = Washington State Department of TRANSPORTATION. If we can avoid building larger freeways by providing robust transit where it is well used, why the Hell not?

      2. How cute, you think it’s anything but the Washington State Department of Moving Automobiles.

        Is construction making Metro buses move slower now than they will once the tunnel AND waterfront highway are open?

      3. The issue here is that you can’t change the scope of a project after it has already been approved and budgeted, especially to change it from a one-time project to a long-term commitment. Of course, WSDOT could grant those operational funds in a separate allocation if it wanted to.

  2. So does this mean that if the Save Metro package passes on top of this, Metro will actually have increased funding?

    1. Not relative to the status quo right now. This temporary boost from WSDOT was intended to last only for the duration of heavy construction on 99 (2012-ish to end of 2015). After 2015, it is, and always was, assumed that the additional riders gained from the temporary additional trips would go back to driving their cars. The issue was that the money was going to run out a year an a half prior to WSDOT’s own commitment.

      1. I was under the impression that the Save Metro package would compensate for both the 17% cuts and the end of this WSDOT temporary money. Are you saying that if this hadn’t come through, and Save Metro had passed, Metro would still have had to cut some West Seattle service?

      2. OK, I see what you mean now. I’m not sure exactly how much of the WSDOT money went to construction-related schedule padding versus trip adds, and I’m not sure how much slower (in terms of annual service hours) the two-way Columbia pathway will be than pre-construction AVW trips. I’m also not sure when the new TBD revenue will be available for service hours — I know some of it has to be bonded out for new buses if the bloodbath doesn’t happen.

        I’d have to know all of those things to tell you exactly how all this pencils out. If you really want to know, I can find out.

        PS: I’d also have to know when the CRC money tails off.

      3. Bruce–CRC money ends in June 2014. And yes, West Seattle was facing both the 17% cuts and another 10% or so from the loss of AWV mitigation. This is very good news for those of us on the westside.

  3. There are portions of the restructure proposal for West Seattle that ought to still go forward. The trip between the Junction and Alki Beach needs more capacity, or at least it will in the summer. Adding that to the 128 (and retracting the 50) should do the trick.

    Riders are just not showing the 21 the love, especially given the alternatives of the 21X, 120, and C Line. Making the 21X all-day, at the expense of the underutilized frequency on the 21, would be welcomed by a lot more riders than would miss the 21’s frequency. A stop consolidation on the 21X would be a nice additional touch.

    Having the 50 take over the 21’s West Seattle path might resuscitate the 50’s ridership a little (or suscitate it, if there is such a word). Or it might not. But investing in making the SODO Station bus stops more pleasant to wait at (RTA signage, for starters, and making the westbound 50 stop actually visible, which an RTA sign would do) would be a very useful capital investment.

    Indeed, the fact that this money will eventually go away screams for using money that it frees up for capital investments that can reduce bus travel time on the Highway 99 corridor. In that regard, I have to commend whoever constructed that new bus path that allows the E-Line to shimmy right over onto Aurora. I was shocked at quickly the E-Line was able to get on Aurora.

  4. @ William C

    The cuts related to the loss of the WSDOT mitigation funding were scheduled to take place in June. So, it seems unlikely that Save Metro would not have been able to save the cuts related to the loss of the mitigation funding.

  5. Good news for West Seattle and for transit, but it does give cautious/timid voters an excuse to vote No on April 22, on the false grounds that WSDOT has “already bailed out” Metro Transit.

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