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.
Yesterday in Crosscut, the Northwest online daily journal of politics and public policy, I published a piece titled “Time to Go ‘All In’ On Tolls.” It starts this way: The four-lane Evergreen Point Floating Bridge across Lake Washington on State Route 520 is a relic of a bygone era, congested and disaster prone. How urgent is the need for a planned six-lane replacement? The Washington State Department of Transportation has gone so far as to graphically model on YouTube how the bridge might buckle under duress, threatening lives and paralyzing the region’s highway network. And is the region stepping up to the challenge? Less than half the funding is secured. The Seattle-side configuration is still being debated. More broadly, the project begs a Read More ›
Earlier this month, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Executive Ron Sims announced an historic accord to replace the seismically vulnerable Alaskan Way Viaduct on SR 99 along the downtown Seattle waterfront with an inland deep bored tunnel. (The last page of this state summary provides details on all project components and planned funding – the tunnel is expected to cost between $1.2 and $2.2 billion). State legislative approval is required. Now, Washington State Senate Majority Caucus Chair Ed Murray, State Senate Transportation Committee Chair Mary Margaret Haugen (pictured, right), the committee’s Ranking Minority Member Dan Swecker, and committee member Fred Jarrett of Mercer Island have introduced Senate Bill 5768 to get the tunnel built. Read More ›
With the defeat by Puget Sound taxpayers of a multi-billion-dollar roads and transit ballot measure Nov. 6, momentum is growing for tolling and congestion pricing to help ease traffic congestion in the Seattle region, as this news and opinion round-up shows. In a Puget Sound Transportation Action Plan just unveiled, Cascadia Center also accents tolling and congestion pricing, along with centralized regional decision-making on transportation; more private investment in roads and transit; more bus rapid transit and commuter rail; an enhanced network of suburban park-and-ride lots; plus more government fleet purchases of – and fuel infrastructure development for – flexible-fuel plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Puget Sound hesitantly stands on the cusp of allocating more rationally its scarce road capacity. Tolling Read More ›