The previous post detailed how ST3 will enable the stupidity of Sound Transit spending billions over the next 7 years on Prop 1 light rail extensions that will have only a miniscule effect on I-5 congestion. This post details why their plans for using ST3 funds to reduce eastside congestion are even dumber.
Eastside commuters along I-90 corridor, like those along I-5, have endured years of congestion that’s only gotten worse since they approved Prop 1 in 2008. The morning congestion frequently begins near Issaquah with long lines on all the onramps and mile-long lines on the I-90 lane to I-405. The lines on the onramps and I-405 lane continue through most of the morning.
The evening commutes are even worse with slow traffic up I-90 to East Gate where they’re joined by eastbound commuters from east side of I-405 waiting in long lines on all the roads leading to the single onramp. (The other choice is a two-mile slog along West Lake Sammamish Boulevard to an onramp near Lakemont.)
Later this year hundreds if not thousands of commuters will lose access to transit when Sound Transit closes the South Bellevue P&R. They’ll likely simply ignore their MOU with Bellevue City Council to provide viable plans to accommodate all those who use the major T/C on the eastside. The result will be all of the remaining P&R lots will be full well before many commuters arrive.
All cross-lake commuters will feel East Link’s impact in 2017 when they close the I-90 Bridge center roadway. (I still frequently encounter those who are unaware of the closure.) They apparently plan to do so without ever demonstrating the 4th lanes they’ll have added (for HOV) will enable the outer roadways to accommodate all cross-lake vehicles. (Despite the fact the FHWA concluded in a Sept 2004 ROD that both center roadway lanes would still be needed for vehicles.) Thus I-90 Bridge commuters will likely encounter the same delays as I-5 commuters currently do on both HOV and GP lanes.
Mercer Island residents will especially suffer since not only will they lose their Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV) access to the center roadway, their access to I-90 Bridge outer roadway will be severely restricted by onramp controls since they are the last with access. The idea the MI city council was (is?) attempting to negotiate some sort of “loss of mobility” compensation with Sound Transit is unlikely to placate many islanders.
The real stupidity of ST3 is that it provides most of the $500-600 Million Sound Transit will spend annually over the next 6 years on East Link. When complete, the $3.6 Billion Prop 1 light rail extension will do absolutely nothing to ease the I-90 corridor congestion and very little to reduce the increased bridge outer roadway congestion because of lost center roadway. (The absurdity of Sound Transit claims for East Link is evident in their website video depicting 3-4 car light rail trains every 8-10 minutes as the answer for cross-lake transit)
The only way to reduce I-90 corridor congestion is to attract more commuters to transit. Give them the option of leaving their car near where they “live” rather than where they “work”. Very few currently have that option since the less than 2000 spaces in the two major P&R lots (Issaquah Highlands and Issaquah Transit Center) are already 99% “in use”. (This lack of commitment to increasing transit ridership is also evident in the fact I rarely see any westbound buses on my frequent early weekday morning drives to Fall City to play "my version of golf". ) Rather than adding thousands of additional parking spaces (and bus routes) Sound Transit uses ST3 funds for light rail between Issaquah and Bellevue (in 2041) without adding the needed parking.
When East Link begins operation the only access for the vast majority of I-90 corridor commuters will be the South Bellevue Station. They’ll still have to endure the current morning and afternoon commutes along I-90. The bus routes Metro and Sound Transit may terminate at the station will be limited by East Link’s 4440 rphpd capacity (half of Central Link 8880 rphpd). The reduced number of buses on bridge outer roadway will have a miniscule effect on congestion.
Voter rejection of ST3 is the only way to end this stupidity. If “forced” to do so Sound Transit, even without ST3 funds, could initiate 2-way BRT on the center roadway once they moved the non-transit HOV traffic to 4th lanes on outer roadway. BRT capacity would far exceed any foreseeable cross-lake transit needs. There would be no need to close the South Bellevue P&R, devastate the route into Bellevue or disrupt downtown Bellevue for four years digging a tunnel. There would be no need to close the center roadway next year, something they apparently intend to do despite the fact the March East Link extension status reported the bridge design was still only 90% complete. (Seven years after being identified as a problem by the FHWA and an IRT study funded by the legislature.)
Prop 1 funds from existing taxes generated on eastside could be used to add the thousands of parking spaces at existing and new P&R lots with express bus routes into Seattle and to Bellevue and Overlake T/Cs. Again, allowing commuters to leave their cars near where they live would ease congestion throughout the area. And they could begin doing so next year.
More on ST3 stupidity later.