Saturday, April 25, 2009

Transportation Budget #1: I-90 Two Way HOV

Yesterday the Senate and House in Washington released essentially what is the finalized transportation budget from the conference committee. The good news, the negotiated budget includes $10 million for R8A funding on I-90 and $7 million for vanpools. Unfortunately though, this budget continues to emphasize 1950 road expansion priorities. Two of the biggest problems with the budget is that it cuts capital passenger rail projects and eliminates GTEC funding.

I'll be doing a series of posts reporting on the impacts of the finalized Transportation budget for mobility and multi-modal funding.

For a direct link to the finalized budget go here: For easier read documents go here:

Two-Way HOV:
The Finalized budget calls for a modest investment of $10 million dollars for the Two-Way I-90 project, also known as R8A. Relocating the HOV lanes out of the middle lane of I-90 to the outside segments of the bridge is a crucial step in building voter approved light rail across I-90. This $10 million dollar investment is better than the $0 that was originally in '09-'11 transportation budget. Sound Transit is still paying the overwhelming vast majority of this $200+ million dollar repaving project.

The Seattle Times covered the story today. Funding aside, the discussion around the State charging Sound Transit to use the center roadway of the floating bridge is still front and center:

"Rail skeptics have objected that freeway capacity will be reduced if trains occupy the express lanes. Last year, Gov. Chris Gregoire and transportation Secretary Paula Hammond both said they expect compensation for the lanes. And in the run-up to last fall's ballot measure, opponents argued the express lanes should be reserved for buses rather than rail, because buses can fan out to more Eastside destinations than a fixed-rail line can."

The idea that the state will charge Sound Transit to use the center roadway is disturbing for a number of reasons:

1) This project will result in no loss of road capacity on I-90 and will improve traffic flow for the "reverse commute" because there will be an HOV lane in each direction all day. The capacity of the corridor will increase drastically because there will be no road capacity loss and high frequency light rail crossing the bridge 20 hours a day, which will benefit everyone.

2) I-90 is ultimately owned by the taxpayers. About 90% of the project was paid for by the federal government during its original construction and it was designed for rail in the first place.

3) Historically Sound Transit has invested significantly in system-wide road improvements through their HOV access program. They have been a team player, WSDOT should return the favor.

4) Having one public agency charge another public agency for infrastructure sets a disturbing precedent. Should the city of Seattle start charging King County Metro for the buses using its streets? The State DOT and Sound Transit are both public agencies that should work together in order to provide choices and mobility to taxpayers. If WSDOT charges Sound Sound Transit to use I-90 lanes it would laugh in the face of agency efficiency and partnership.

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