At a meeting in Seattle last week, lawmakers heard that the funding gap for replacing the storm- and seismically-vulnerable, crowded four-lane SR 520 bridge across Lake Washington can be shaved from $2.6 billion to $2.38 billion through a sales tax deferral of $220 million. They also had a look at the current menu of gap-closers. It includes more borrowing against electronic tolling revenues, plus higher toll rates on the 520 bridge, and especially, tolling of the parallel I-90 bridge. As ever, tolling’s a flash point, but it needn’t be ugly. It can equitable, and farsighted. Metro Puget Sound needs a comprehensive regional highway corridor electronic tolling plan, typically with express “HOT” lanes aside free lanes, and higher rates at peak hours.
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 ›
“Get on board with Eastside commuter rail,” urges the Everett Herald in a Sunday editorial following two community forums on the policy initiative last week, in which Cascadia Center previewed a new 501c4 non-profit – the Eastside TRailway Partnership – to raise public and private funds for a pilot route between Snohomish and Bellevue on old Burlington Northern and Sante Fe tracks to be purchased by the Port of Seattle. The Herald: Imagine relatively small, quiet, fuel-efficient trains carrying thousands of commuters and tourists between Snohomish and Bellevue, and perhaps farther south, each weekday — running every hour or even half-hour on tracks that already exist. Imagine a comfortable, scenic rail commute that includes seamless connections to buses to get Read More ›
The action taken by the Port of Seattle yesterday in moving forward with purchase of the BNSF rail line east of Lake Washington is an extremely important milestone for the future of rails and trails on the Eastside. The new wrinkle has King County purchasing rather than leasing from the Port the Renton-to-Bellevue and Woodinville-to-Redmond sections, to remove the track and develop a gravel trail. That will need to be reckoned with, but it isn’t a deal killer. The Renton-to-Bellevue portion of the rail line was scheduled to be severed anyway, due to construction of an expanded section of I-405 at the Wilburton Trestle. What’s left right now, for possible – and we believe, eminently feasible – Eastside commuter rail Read More ›