Former Mercer Island mayor Aubrey Davis is no crank, and when it comes to regional transportation issues he sure as hell knows what he’s talking about. I once had the opportunity to watch him moderate a candidate forum on transportation, and there didn’t seem to be a single detail he didn’t have at his fingertips.
So when Davis, also a former chairman of the Washington State Transportation Commission, critiques Dino Rossi’s transportation “plan” as he does in today’s Seattle Times, his is a voice of wisdom and experience that deserves a good listen.
“To stay on track,” Aubrey argues, “we must pursue transportation projects that are affordable, doable and forward-thinking. Dino Rossi’s proposal is none of the above.” And to prove his point he focuses on “two serious flaws” in the Rossi plan: an eight-lane 520 bridge, and the lack of transit options for the East King County.
I spent several years chairing a regional 520 executive committee that produced a very strong east-west consensus on the six-lane alternative with later capability for additional high capacity transit. [...] Engineering studies show that dumping eight lanes of traffic from 520 onto an already congested I-5 and I-405 would virtually shut down both freeways and create gridlock across the region. I-5 and I-405 would become the most expensive parking lots on Earth. Connecting an eight-lane 520 to I-5 and I-405 would be like trying to connect a fire hydrant to a garden hose, and the ones getting wet would be us, the taxpayers.
It has been estimated that billions of dollars in new lanes on I-5 and I-405 would be needed to make this fire hydrant-to-garden hose connection that Rossi proposes even remotely possible. These costs are not accounted for in Rossi’s plan and funding is not available.
And oh yeah… Rossi’s claim he can build an eight-lane bridge for less than the planned six-lane alternative…? Davis says it’s a crock of shit. (Though not exactly in those words.)
The second serious flaw is Rossi’s proposal to “hijack” Sound Transit money currently reserved for Eastside transit, and spend it on state highways instead. Davis says this proposal is not only illegal, but ill-conceived.
By taking money dedicated to East King County light rail and express buses and spending it on highway lanes, Rossi is in effect telling this generation of Eastside residents that light rail and superior bus service aren’t in our future, ever. With our region approaching $4 a gallon gas, we need more transit options, not fewer.
Anyone who has even just peeked across the lake at the massive construction cranes dominating the city of Bellevue’s skyline knows that Bellevue is a city growing toward a 2050 land-use and community vision, not a 1950s automobile-dominated past. With more downtown workers and residents, Bellevue and its surrounding Eastside cities need more transit service, not less. Rossi’s transportation proposal would give East King County 50 more years of the same crowded highways and limited choices for getting to work, school and home.
I know the conventional wisdom was that by pitching a transportation plan—any plan—Rossi would push Gov. Gregoire back on her heels on one of the highest profile issues concerning regional voters today. But I’m pretty confident voters know that they can’t commute to work on promises and pixie dust, and with near universal condemnation and/or ridicule coming from the local media, they now understand that’s exactly what the Rossi “plan” offers.