The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Friday, February 29, 2008

Bridge for 520 not ready until 2018

WA House approves 520 tolling study bill

Associated Press Writer

The Legislature moved another step closer Friday to imposing tolls for a new State Route 520 bridge, with the House approving a study group to help determine how the state would collect the tolls.

House Republicans opposed the bill and unsuccessfully tried to make several changes, including a requirement that money raised by tolls be used only on the 520 bridge, which links Seattle and its eastside suburbs across Lake Washington.

The study group will analyze the impact of tolling on the region. It also will consider implementing tolling on the Interstate 90 bridge across the lake, and how tolls will affect traffic flow on Interstate 405. The group will report back to lawmakers in December.

House lawmakers approved the study group on a 63-30 vote. The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

The future of the aging 520 bridge has been a hot topic in Olympia this session, after Gov. Chris Gregoire threw her support behind tolls as a means to pay for half of the $4 billion project. The 44-year-old bridge is in danger of sustaining significant damage, including collapse, during severe weather.

Washington has a long history of fee-free roadways, but voter rejection of a sales tax increase to bankroll the 520 project last year has led to consideration of tolls.

Tolls were collected on the existing 520 bridge after it was built, then phased out after the construction costs were paid. Democrats and Gregoire want to toll the current bridge again, to pay for construction of a new one.

Current designs supported by Democrats call for six total lanes, with four general purpose lanes, along with two HOV lanes. Democrats also want the new bridge to have the capacity for light rail.

"We are locking ourselves into building a bridge that's too small," said Deputy Minority Leader Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale. "We'll only build six total lanes, it doesn't leave room for expansion."

Ericksen, the GOP's point man on transportation, said Democrats might be supporting an undersized bridge because they want to force drivers out of their cars and into public transportation.

Most of Friday's complaints from Republicans centered on the expected construction timeline. The current goal is 2018, but Republicans want a bridge by 2013.

House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said Republicans missed the mark in their requests. The main cause of the delays, Clibborn said, has been debate over the design plans, which include a tunnel option.

"Some of the amendments we were rejecting were saying, 'Go in and force what you want down the throats of neighborhoods.' And it just doesn't fit well with what we're doing," Clibborn said.

Earlier in the session, the House approved the use of tolls by the state, the first step in the process of installing tolls on Washington roadways. Lawmakers have indicated that 520 might not be the only project that will be paid for with tolls.

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