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The Future 520 Lake Washington Bridge

On Thursday an ad hoc group released a study on 520 tolling looking at various alternatives, including tolling the I-90 Bridge.

Lake Washington Bridge tolling has been a big part of funding scenarios for the rebuild of the 520 Bridge. The legislature, concerned about general opposition to tolling in Washington 'State, started a project to study alternatives and, most importantly, guage feedback. Also on the table was the identification of likely 'diversion' impacts and ways to mitigate those, including among lower income drivers.

The amount of feedback was incredible - roughly 8000 letters and petition signatures, nearly as many via a web page, as well as a statistically valid phone survey. As typical, Commissioner Bob Drewel made a snide comment about public involvement, insulting all those citizens who participated as in need of 'catharsis'.

Given the fact that both web and phone surveys were supportive - it looks like Mr. Drewel himself needs 'catharsis' against the responsibility of his assigned duties as a public servant. Call him, if you will, a 'scumbag millionaire'.

The only opposition was 3200 petition signatures from Mercer Island, the beneficiaries of what at the time of construction was the most expensive road in the Country.

Here are some of my thoughts -

I-90 should definitely be included in the tolling. Mercer Island residents have a great road at no expense to themselves AND, if only 520 is tolled it will no longer be so. There is a crucial public transportation funding concept emerging here - that of the corridor. Personally, I believe it imperative to dedicate tolling funds to the area where they were raised. The two lake bridges are the corridor between Seattle and the Eastside and they cannot really be seperated. This is a symbolic step that will bode well for the health of all transportation planning.

Secondly, on the subject of traffic diversion, I'd encourage the legislature to authorize lower cost lanes. Currently tolling is used on Highway 167 as a HOT lane. The future of expansion of that alternative is expanding it to two lanes. Why not create variably priced two lane HOTs on I-90 and the new 520. Keep a toll on the remaining lane, but keep that price relatively low, regardless of time. Like with corridor organization a two lane variably priced HOT approach will lead to a healthy future for transportation in Washington State.

David Hopkins presented this report to the 3 person ad hoc group and I believe was the study author. Paula Hammond, WSDOT Director, and Dick Ford rounded out the group. Ford is an old boy, definitely a good one, but still way too buddy buddy with Drewel and his ilk. He's had a pretty impressive career in this arena, it is quite possible he can continue for still a few more years.

Drewel is the Executive Director of the Puget Sound Regional Council, his 'bailout' job after the citizens of Snohomish County booted him from the County Executive seat for his involvement with the typical Seattle public scams. (Joni Earl, Executive Director of Sound Transit was his deputy in Snohomish. Curiously, she now lives in north Tacoma.)


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