The 520 bridge replacement project is more than another transportation project.
It is an opportunity to build healthy places to live, work, and play that our region won’t see again for at least another half century.
It is an opportunity to be good stewards of the environment and to address climate change.
It is an opportunity for our many local communities to come together and act as a region.
It is an opportunity for us to determine what kind of city we want and the quality of life of our neighborhoods.
It is an opportunity for our state to offer a vision of transportation for the 21st Century and not just building roads like its 1959.
Finally it is again an opportunity to move our transportation system forward.
It will take leadership to bring together all the many points of view on how to best move forward on transportation. But we have done it before.
During my time as Chair of the House Transportation Committee, working with my Republican and Democratic counterparts in both the House and the Senate, we passed fourteen and half cents in gas taxes by bringing road and transit advocates from the east and west side together.
(I point out the fact that I worked to pass the largest financing package for roads in our state’s history only to preempt the pigeonholing of my perspective here as that of another Seattle Democrat transit advocate.)
It will take leadership from the environmental community to get transit right. Transportation remains the single largest contributor to global warming in Washington State – over half our greenhouse emissions come from vehicles. The 520 bridge project offers a real opportunity to build a transportation structure of the future that contributes to the solution.
Neither the legislation authorizing the new 520 bridge, nor any of the current designs, integrate transit into the design or planning of the project. Nor is there any financing mechanism for new transit in the corridor, particularly for high capacity transit. The name alone — “The 520 Bridge and HOV Replacement Project” – is proof that again we are building a road to move cars, and not a transportation corridor to move people and goods. The current plan amounts to placing existing buses onto new HOV lanes to share with cars. Glaringly, it lacks a streamlined connection for transit riders between the north/south transit corridor at new Sound Transit Station at Montlake and any future transit riders moving east/west from the new 520.
It will take leadership from the City to bring neighborhoods that currently disagree amongst themselves together. Far more people live and work near the 520 bridges then the Viaduct. The City should use the model it developed during the creation of urban villages to approach the project in a comprehensive manner. It should put the Departments of Planning, Neighborhoods, and Transportation on the ground and bring together neighborhoods that are currently divided, creating an all-neighborhoods comprehensive mitigation and transportation plan. It is impossible for the Seattle legislators to support a city position when one is lacking.
It will take leadership on the part of the county to bring urban and suburban interests together. The county with the new leadership of Dow Constantine from Seattle and Fred Jarrett from the east side of Lake Washington is uniquely positioned to bring both sides of the lake together and act as a region. The state should consider allowing the County to assume all coordination for planning and financing for a new 520 and I-90 corridor transportation authority.
It will take leadership in the Legislature to address the fact that the current financial plan is unattainable. During the negotiations to pass the nine-and-a-half-cent gas tax east of the lake, legislators insisted on moving $1.5 billion out of 520 and applying it to I-405. Now we have a shortfall. The solution is to toll I-90 in addition to 520, and committing toll revenues to the construction, maintenance and operations of the bridge and of transit.
If we fail to come together as a region on a project that is crucial to our economic future, I believe we will destroy the coalition that moved our transportation system forward and return again to the defeats we suffered in years past.
We have succeeded in the past and we can do it again. Let’s capitalize on the many unique opportunities we face. Let’s move our transportation system forward.
— Sen. Ed Murray