Several of my blog posts have described how Sound Transit has lied with claims their 4-car trains every 9 minutes across I-90 bridge center roadway provided the same capacity as 10 lanes of freeway. The second big lie was their 2008 DEIS claim “Travel times across I-90 for vehicles and trucks would also improve or remain similar with East Link”.
Sound Transit’s plan for accommodating cross-lake vehicles and trucks forced to use the outer roadway by their center roadway confiscation is to add a 4th lane to the outer roadway. I-90 was never designed to accommodate 4 lanes in the outer roadways. The WSDOT never had plans to add a 4th lane in each of the outer roadways, per agreement with Seattle.
The outer roadway 52 ft width requires reducing the lane widths from the FHWA standard of 12 feet to 11 feet and reducing the speed limits to 50 mph. The combination of buses and HOV traffic on the 4th lane will surely exacerbate the congestion problem. Any sort of failure on the bridge will totally disrupt traffic flow.
Sound Transits own studies warned of capacity problems when HOV traffic is combined with buses. A Federal Highway Administration document FHWA-WA-EIS-3-01-F, “Interstate-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations Record of Decision” concludes the HOV traffic severely limits bus capacity. Even switching from 2 to 3 person carpools didn’t affect the conclusion of unacceptable congestion with combined traffic. Sound Transit could opt for limiting the 4th lane to buses leaving non-transit commuters facing gridlock on the other three lanes.
What is truly remarkable is Sound Transit told a Kittitas judge moving the HOV and bus traffic to the outer roadway would eliminate the need to use the center roadway for highway needs. This claim is what convinced the judge to proceed with installing light rail on the center roadway. Again, their 2004 studies showed that simply wasn’t true.
Perhaps the biggest indication of Sound Transit duplicity on the outer roadway modification is the fact they’ve delayed it until 2016. They could have added the lane nearly 20 years ago. The costs would have been minimal and the benefits to cross-lake commuters, particularly “reverse commuters” immediate.
The reasons are obvious. They were concerned the lane addition would lead to a temporary closure of the center roadway to demonstrate the modified outer roadway could accommodate vehicle traffic. A demonstration they knew would fail.
Even more important was concern they would be forced to divide the center roadway into inbound and outbound bus lanes. A configuration they knew would be so successful the center roadway could never be shut down to install light rail.
One thing is certain, if Sound Transit proceeds as planned their 2016 closure of center roadway will forever change cross-lake commuting. I believe my concerns will be vindicated. Unfortunately by then it will probably be too late.