Corridor-length Approach Is Favored; I-405/SR 167 Seen As Model Reporter Newspapers covers East and South King County, and has produced a lengthy special section – also available online – delving into the region’s surface transportation challenges. In an in interview for “Navigate King County’s Future,” Washington Department of Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond talks about funding, with an emphasis on beginning to to add variable-rate express toll lanes for the full length of major highway corridors such as I-405/SR 167. She also alludes to the next-generation approach of charging vehicles for all miles driven, with on-board units. In the future, you could be paying for your right to use roads the same way you pay your utilities — a bill based Read More ›
As part of its Eastside Corridor Tolling study of I-405 and SR 167, WashDOT will hold public meetings next week on Aug. 18, 19 and 20 in Auburn, Bellevue and Renton. Due to increased population and employment over recent decades, the north-south highway corridor of I-405 and SR 167 serving suburban cities south and east of Seattle already suffers major peak hour congestion which would worsen without intervention as growth continues. Up to two (electronic, variably-priced) express toll lanes in each direction are being contemplated for I-405 along with the addition of another lane in each direction to SR 167, each of those likely to be similarly managed.
The first thing you need to know about KIRO-FM 97.3 News Talk host Dori Monson is that when he says he’s “filled full of Diet Coke, caffeine and righteous rage,” he’s not kidding. Okay, maybe he’s exaggerating a bit, showman that he is. Let’s just say he’s a high-energy guy and a strenuous advocate of fiscal accountability and limited taxes, as I was reminded yesterday in an hour-long session with Dori and some of his many listeners. We were discussing a proposal for a seamless system of tolled express lanes on the Puget Sound region’s highways and major state routes, that I outlined in a piece recently published at Crosscut, titled, “Flexible Tolling: The Key To Solving Our Congestion.” It Read More ›
Will more Washington roads take their toll on drivers? That’s the question posed in the headline of an article written by Aubrey Cohen of the seattlepi.com today, and which quotes my colleague, Cascadia Center Senior Fellow Matt Rosenberg extensively. Discovery Institute Founder and President Bruce Chapman comments on the issue over at Discovery Blog under the post “For Whom the Highway Tolls.” The country needs a general upgrade of infrastructure. Billions are now available through the stimulus bill, but still not enough. The emphasis on “shovel-ready” projects in the stimulus package, though understandable as a recession-fighter, is unhelpful when the need is for serious long term planning. The seattlepi.com story quotes heavily from a recent Rosenberg article about tolling in Read More ›
Article as published at Crosscut
Population in the four counties of Central Puget Sound will have grown from the 2008 total of 3.6 million by another 1.4 million in 2040. Jobs will increase by 1.1 million, and – based on the region’s collective proclivities to date – total vehicle miles travelled (VMT) by more than 40 percent. Barring some big paradigm shift, the percentage of daily “passenger” work trips (freight vehicles not included) which occur on transit will grow from 8 percent of the current (2006) total to only 9 percent in 2040. For far more numerous non-work passenger trips, the transit market share stays at a scant 2 percent between 2006 and 2040, according to recent modeling. The vast majority of daily passenger trips occur in cars now and then. For work it’s more than four of five, for non-work, about nine of ten. (The rest are split between transit, walking and biking.) On the upside, there’s a lot more ride-sharing for non-work trips; plus, per-capita VMT will continue to stay flat; and we can shave a bit off the expected growth in total VMT by meeting (elusive) regional growth strategy targets.
These are some of the conclusions in a March 2009 background paper that’s part of the Puget Sound Regional Council’s “Transportation 2040” planning effort. Future projections may change slightly under new computer modeling in a draft environmental impact statement due out at month’s end. But you get the idea. The PSRC’s 2040 picture begs a huge question: what to do about it all. And, as we’ll see in a moment, it turns out that, away from the big transportation headlines it made last session, the state legislature has some ideas of its own.
My own take: A comprehensive approach to managing peak-hour highway capacity in Central Puget Sound should be launched by bravely establishing – and soon – a seamless regional system of variably-priced, automated and ultimately, corridor-length tolling on highways and major state routes. This must be folded into a broader plan to develop stable long-term funding for the region’s surface transportation network.
Slight decreases in traffic congestion due to the economic downturn are no reason to curtail aggressive transportation planning for looming population and employment growth in major metro regions. Despite the most fervent wishes of some planners, metro region growth in coming years will continue to be more away from, than to, high-density urban neighborhoods. This is due to due to several factors. For one, first- and second-ring suburbs have become regional employment centers, and cities in their own right. They are where people increasingly work, shop, play – and if finances permit, live. Examples in Central Puget Sound include Bellevue and Redmond to the east of Seattle, and (more affordable) Kent and Federal Way to the city’s south. Second, there Read More ›
Columbia River Crossing is the $4.2 billion project to replace two old, crowded and dangerous bridges connecting Washington and Oregon on Interstate 5 (pictured below left, courtesy of KATU-TV Portland). The old structures (one goes northbound-only, the other southbound) are to be supplanted with a new, two-way variably-tolled bridge, that will also extend Portland’s light rail system to Vancouver, Wash., add bike and pedestrian pathways across the river, and fix six devilish bridge corridor interchanges near the crossing. It’s been announced recently that the bridge will be 12 lanes total, then the highway will narrow back to six. The wider bridge will be built to help handle crossing volume fed by longer-haul traffic and also by local and regional drivers, Read More ›
The State Route 520 Tolling Implementation Committee’s “November Scenario Evaluation” document released yesterday shows that the most robust regional financing for replacing the dangerously sub-par 520 bridge comes from time-variable tolling on it starting in 2010 and tolling the parallel I-90 span across Lake Washington, starting in 2010 or 2016. Tolling in this key east-west corridor would be done on the fly, electronically, with vehicle windshield transponders and overhead gantries; no toll booths. Tolls that vary by time of day are likely, though flat rates are also an option. Special lanes that would be free to buses and ride-sharers could be made available to solo drivers, for a price. The committee’s members are WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond (pictured, left), Puget Read More ›
Construction began last week on a High Occupancy and Toll (HOT) lane to serve carpoolers, transit and – for a price varying by miles travelled and time of day – solo drivers, on a 14-mile stretch of southbound I-680 in the San Francisco Bay Area. The highway connects the jobs-rich Silicon Valley region with populous East Bay communities to the north. Electronic tolling will be employed, using transponders and overhead gantries. Carpoolers will cover their onboard transponders to avoid being charged. Some commuters are expected to save 30 minutes in the express lane, while congestion will be eased in the general use lanes as well. It’s all part of a much broader, 25-year, $6.1 billion toll-financed plan to build, operate Read More ›
The Washington State Department of Transportation last spring began a four-year pilot project to see how High Occupancy and Toll (HOT) lanes would work on a nine-mile stretch of State Route 167 in the near-south suburban part of the Seattle region, from Renton to Auburn. Carpoolers and transit use the fast lanes for free, solo drivers pay a sliding-scale fee based on current congestion. It’s all electronic, with gantries and transponders, not a toll booth in sight, thank goodness. Prices can range from 50 cents to $9 on SR 167’s HOT lanes, but have tended toward the lower end of the scale so far. The aim is to keep traffic flowing at 45 mph or higher at least 90 percent Read More ›