(The Supreme Court’s decision rejecting the Freeman suit prompted the following post.)
The Supreme Court apparently relied on Sound Transit’s contention that the $173 million they will spend adding the HOV lane to the outer roadway does two things. It fulfils ST obligation to pay for using the center roadway for light rail and makes the center roadway “surplus” because the added lane on the outer roadway would allow it to accommodate all the cross-lake vehicles.
Others can debate whether the $173 million spent on the HOV lanes is “adequate”. The question is “why didn’t ST spend the money to add the lane 15 years ago and why do they continue to delay the lane until 2016?” Surely the added capacity would have benefited cross-lake commuters from both sides of the lake, particularly “reverse” commuters and reduced the impact of the added traffic from those avoiding 520 tolls. The $173 million, while not “peanuts”, pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions ST has spent promoting the $2.8 billion East Link light rail system. The added capacity would have also eliminated the recent “justification” for adding I-90 tolls to reduce bridge congestion.
Sound Transit delays in adding HOV lane likely reflect two concerns. The first is that moving the non-transit HOV traffic to the outer roadway would allow the center roadway to be used for two-way bus rapid transit (BRT). Even though ST “neglected” to consider BRT as the “no-build” option in their EIS they undoubtedly knew (or should have known) its far greater capacity and accessibility would have ended any chance to "invest" $2.8 billion replacing it with light rail.
The second reason for the delay is equally nefarious. Once they added the lane they were concerned they would be required to demonstrate it provided the needed capacity by temporarily closing the center roadway. They knew, or should have known, a September 2004 Federal Highway Administration document, “I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operation Project, Record of Decision”, demonstrated the added lane did not provide needed capacity (see 5/16/12 post for details)
Again, Sound Transit mendacity has allowed them to surmount another hurdle in their quest for light rail. The entire area will pay a heavy price if nothing is done to stop them.