Republicans were right to fire WSDOT Secretary Lynn Peterson. It may or may not have been “triggered” by her decision to spend $484 million implementing HOT on I-405. Thousands of commuters are rightly questioning how making it more difficult to car pool and increasing tolls as more drivers pay them could reduce congestion. If it did, why don’t they add HOT to I-5. Hopefully her replacement will end any plans to implement HOT between Bellevue and Renton as well as any other major roadways.
However her HOT failure pales in comparison to her inability to exert “competent transportation leadership” on the Sound Transit Board. The other board members were elected officials appointed by the King County Executive to represent their constituencies public transit concerns. While obviously well thought of, there’s no requirement they have the background needed to “direct transportation policy”. The WSDOT position on the board was presumably intended to provide that leadership.
Secretary Peterson, at least publicly, didn’t. Instead she continued her predecessor’s decision to allow ST board to continue with a light rail system totally incapable of meeting the area’s transit needs. Their WSDOT was an accomplice to Sound Transit incompetence rather than a “corrective influence” as exemplified in their joint 2008 East Link DEIS.
While the DEIS correctly advocated adding 4th lanes to the I-90 Bridge outer roadways, it never considered dividing the center roadway into inbound and outbound bus rapid transit (BRT) lanes. The BRT lanes could have accommodated more than 1000 buses an hour, dwarfing any foreseeable cross-lake transit capacity needs. Instead their DEIS “no-build” alternative maintained the existing “peak direction” for both lanes.
The DEIS indicates neither ST nor WSDOT recognized light rail limitations in our area. Instead they sold Prop I to the voters in 2008 with claims East Link would “Meet growing transit and mobility demands by increasing person-moving capacity across Lake Washington on I-90 by up to 60%” with “peak hour capacity of up to 18,000 to 24,000 people per hour, equivalent to between 6 to 10 freeway lanes of traffic”. Yet the PSRC document the DEIS cited as the basis for light rail, “Central Puget Sound Regional High Capacity Transit Corridor Assessment” concluded the “bus tunnel” limited total light rail capacity to 8880 riders per hour per direction (rphpd).
East Link would presumably be limited to half that capacity or 4440 in each direction less than half needed to meet even the 18,000 total. Presumably this lack of Central Link capacity led to their ST3 proposal for a 2nd tunnel and light rail tracks to Everett. They surely don’t need both yet ST, presumably with Peterson’s concurrence, continues to spend billions extending Central Link to Northgate and beyond to Everett.
Another example of Peterson’s “inadequacies” was her approach to adding the 4th lanes to the I-90 Bridge outer roadways. They could have done so 15 years ago, reducing congestion for commuters from both sides of the lake, but particularly “reverse commuters”. Instead she went along with her predecessor’s acceptance of the delay, adding years to the increased congestion
Even worse, presumably under her direction, WSDOT lawyers told a federal judge the 4th lanes made up for the loss of the two center roadway lanes, persuading him to allow light rail on the center roadway. Yet the very document the WSDOT lawyers cited in making their claim, “I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations Project- Record of Decision-September 2004” concluded the following:
Selected Alternative R-8A will provide HOV lanes on the outer roadways. It will retain the existing reversible operation on the center roadway”
The obvious conclusion that large numbers of non-transit vehicles dramatically reduces transit bus capacity has been reinforced by the HOV lane delays between Everett and Seattle. Yet, the WSDOT, again presumably under her direction, has declined to require ST demonstrate the outer roadway can accommodate all the vehicles before they allow them to close center roadway next year. They could do so by temporarily closing the center roadway after they’ve added the 4th lanes.
To be fair, Secretary Peterson is just one of 18 ST board members. Thus any objections she may have regarding light rail may have been overridden by others more sympathetic to Chairman Constantine’s vision for light rail with ST3 funding.
“What we can do is create light rail to take you where you want to go, when you want to go, on time, every time, for work, for play, for school”
Constantine’s apparent failure to recognize the limitations of light rail in dealing with the areas transportation problems is why the WSDOT must do so.
The first indication of her successor’s competence will be whether he or she makes center roadway closure contingent on successfully demonstration outer roadway capacity. Cross-lake commuting could likely change forever if they don’t.