Sound Transit recently completed I-90/Light Rail compatibility tests of their design for the 190-foot expansion joint connecting the “fixed” and “floating “ portions of the bridge. The test, at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado apparently demonstrated their “Cesura” design for the connection could accommodate two-car trains at speeds up to 55 mph.
This result would normally qualify as a “better late than never” success. The reason it’s “late” is the fact a study funded by the Washington State Joint Transportation Committee concluded in Sept 2008 the following concerning the expansion joint:
A required design element (LRT Expansion Joint Tract Bridge) has no history of use on floating bridges, and therefore requires careful study and testing in the early stages of the project.
It took ST more than 5 years to verify the I-90 bridge could withstand the loads from light rail trains. The fact I-90/Light Rail compatibility was considered to be the most significant “Risk” to East Link as late as their October 2013 light rail assessment would surely qualify the test results as “late”.
It’s quite another thing to describe the test result as “better”. It allows ST to continue their plans to spend $2.8 billion over the next ten years on an East Link light rail system that will be a disaster for the entire east side. It will likely be limited to 2-car trains with capacity for about 300 riders every 8 minutes; a tiny fraction of the needed cross-lake capacity. It will inevitably result in frequent gridlock on the bridge outer roadways for buses, other HOV traffic, and cars. It will also devastate the route into Bellevue and make BelRed development problematic. (See 1/04/14 post)
A test “failure” would presumably have forced ST to expedite their planned 4th lane additions on the bridge outer roadways for non-transit HOV. The center roadway could then be divided into two-way bus only lanes capable of 1000 buses per hour. Part of that capacity would be used to provide new bus rapid transit (BRT) routes between all of the east side P&R lots and the Bellevue T/C into Seattle. The costs would have been minimal and it could be operating in 2015 not 2023. Increasing the number of commuters who leave their cars at a local P&R would have reduced congestion throughout the area.
Thus as far as the I-90/light rail compatibility test results are concerned “late” is not better than “never”.