Yesterday I sat in on a presentation by the Division Administrator of the Washington Division of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to the Eastside Transportation Association. I did so because the initial item on the agenda dealt with the status of the FHWA decision on allowing Sound Transit to close the I-90 center roadway for East Link light rail installation.
To put it mildly, I was disappointed. The initial chart suggested closing the I-90 center roadway was a “done deal” based on an earlier ROD (Record of Decision). He seemed utterly unaware of the fact the Sept 2004 ROD “I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations Project Record of Decision” had included the following description of the “Selected Alternative R-8A:
Alternative R-8A will provide HOV lanes on the outer roadways. It will retain the existing reversible operation on the center roadway with both lanes operating in the same direction.
He never did explain how or why the FHWA had agreed with ST that the center roadway vehicle lanes were no longer necessary.
I later asked whether the FHWA was going to require Sound Transit demonstrate the 4th lanes added to the outer roadways had sufficient capacity to accommodate all the I-90 vehicles prior to closing the center roadway to install light rail. The response was the FHWA was satisfied that ST “modeling” had shown adequate capacity so no additional testing was needed.
I was interrupted by the “monitor” before I could point out the 2004 ROD had concluded inbound and outbound lanes on the center roadway, the R-2B configuration, did not provide sufficient capacity for both non-transit HOV and buses. Thus it seemed “unlikely” 4th lanes, squeezed onto the outer roadways, would be adequate. To accept ST assurances of capacity without verification seems “imprudent”.
In conclusion, the FHWA is apparently willing to approve ST plans to confiscate the I-90 Bridge center roadway to install light rail. The entire east side will suffer if this current lack of adequate oversight continues.