Seattle City Council Leaning Towards Pacific Interchange

It’s beyond my understanding that the Seattle City Council is seriously considering officially supporting the Pacific Interchange, given its impacts on the Arboretum (outlined in the draft EIS) and Madison Park. But that’s the crux of this Seattle PI article from 4 October, reporting on a "public forum lasting nearly three hours, [where] many of the more than 200
people attending either praised or blasted a six-lane alternative for
the aging floating bridge." [Also, see the Council press release.]

Not only is the Pacific Interchange the most expensive proposal, it
encourages an increase in Single-Occupancy-Vehicle (SOV) traffic —
something incredibly short-sighted in today’s environment. What about
King County’s carbon-emission-reduction program, Seattle’s local climate action plans?
Supporting the Pacific Interchange option for SR520 is like turning
your back on those commitments. Another bit of "do as I say, not as I
do" rhetoric? [Added: In recent reporting, only The Stranger has made a link to carbon reduction promises/plans.]

The King County Journal (not the TImes or PI) is reporting on opposition groups.

Not surprisingly, the KCJ article highlights conflicts between citizens and businesses. An Eastside business group wants an EIGHT lane bridge. (I am boggled.) A citizen group wants the rebuilt bridge capped at its current four lanes (and we can’t even afford that, even with a $3.50 per trip toll) because of environmental and neighborhood impacts of a six-lane bridge. And another citizen group wants no toll at all.

The arguments almost seem moot: we have identified the source of only a fraction of the monies needed for a project of this magnitude:

Replacing the 520 bridge with another four-lane
bridge would cost $2.04 to $3.47 billion, a six-lane bridge would cost
$2.84 to $4.87 billion and a six-lane version with a ramp ending near
Husky Stadium in Seattle would add about $500 million to the cost. Thus
far, however, only about $1.25 billion in funding has been identified.

For context, the Iraq war is costing $2 billion per week, according to a September Congressional Research Service report.


Before I went to DC earlier this month, I was supporting the six-lane, current off-ramp option. But after seeing what 30 years had done for Metro, the DC tri-government subway system that debuted in 1976, during my first summer there, I’ve rethought my position.

It’s not in the EIS.

It’s more along the vision that prompted leaders to build Metro, which is now "the second-busiest rail transit system in the United States."

It’s a holistic approach to regional transportation issues. A recognition that what you get when you build more roads is more cars on those roads — a congestion stop-gap, at best. An acknowledgement that if you build it — and provide timely, convenient service integrated with buses — they WILL come.

My proposal: build another four-lane bridge, implement a three-passenger HOV lane during rush hour. Figure out how to integrate commuter options with the light-rail planned for I-90. Maybe this means the eastside gets light-rail or express bus service from I-90 and Bellevue way to I-90 and SR520. Long-term, use those beefed up pontoons at some point in the future and add light rail.

Heck, we can almost pay for this one.

Hopefully the $7- daily toll will cause folks to rethink their commute – but I doubt it, as that’s in 2030 dollars (!). If that were 2006 dollars — imagine the increase in public transport ridership. Imagine the increase in telecommuting. Both actions that would help us achieve our leaders’ stated goal of reducing our carbon footprint.

By all means, stop at Bellevue Square, for all those short-term-thinking business folks who want an eight-lane bridge.

Folks, be pragmatic for a moment. Gasoline prices are only going to go higher, which will, someday, put a dent in our gasoline addiction. Be proactive now!

Alaska ice is melting, and our region should be more acutely aware of this than any other in the US, Alaska excepted; carbon emissions matter. Make your leaders walk their talk.

Sprawl is antithical to a feeling of neighborhood, community; sprawl is antithical to common sense. Let’s not be enablers.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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