Tag Archives: traffic

I-985: Ridiculous

I-985, title  “Reducing Traffic Congestion,” follows in the law-making tradition of naming bills after generally good principles, even when the bill directly contradicts said principles.

I-985 would turn HOV lanes into regular traffic lanes at 6 pm. Not only would that negate the effect of Mercer Island’s shiny new HOV lane for buses, which have helped speed up traffic around the 80th Ave exit,

but it would have this obvious chain of effects:

  1. Buses and carpools become no faster than driving alone
  2. More people drive to work
  3. More cars are on the road
  4. Everyone slows down

Then we all get stuck in traffic and cause more pollution. The No on I-985 Group lists all the anti-endorsements of this bill. The Seattle Times lists 10 reasons not to vote for it. But the HOV-lane change is all it takes to make the “Reducing Traffic Congestion”initiative ridiculous.

Future Worthwhile Projects, Also To Be Screwed Up

The new HOV lanes from Bellevue are only Phase 1 in WSDOT’s I-90 HOV project. Also to be screwed up by I-985 are :
Phase 2: New HOV lane from Mercer Island to Bellevue, to finish in 2020
Phase 3: HOV lanes to and from Seattle, to finish in 2023

Video of the New HOV Lane

Adding nothing to the conversation on I-985, but fun to watch, is this video of the new HOV-only exit on Mercer Island:

Clearly designed for buses going to the Park-and-Ride, the exit forces you to turn right at 80th Ave. But it keeps buses from cutting across all lanes to exit.

Bonus Link

Curious how your environmental impact changes when you take the bus? Check out Salamander Points, a new site that lets you add up your energy usage and see how sustainable it is. Nice!

Toll Us– It’s Better than the Alternative

It took crises in Western countries’ real estate markets and a not-yet-ended series of near-collapses in our financial system to make me realize that Seattle transit is not as screwed up as some other systems.

Since the defeat of Prop 1 last year, Seattle transportation-makers have been trying to figure out how to fix our bridges, notably the 520 bridge over Lake Washington. They recently added a fifth option to the four options already priced out and presented. That fifth option is the most drastic: to toll both I-90 and I-520 starting in 2010.

Build520.org has a very nice online comparison of the four original options. Option 5 not yet included.

So Toll Us, Already

Tolling I-90 at the same time as SR-520 makes sense. If SR-520 is the only route across Lake Washington with a toll, a lot more traffic will cross I-90. The bridges are only a few miles apart. Then our bridge, already a parking lot during a lot of rush hour, will really be a mess.

But Give Us a Break

Come on, we live on an island. And it’s a residential island, with basic services but not much else. But of course we’ll leave the island less often if tolls are high. If the rest of Seattle thinks Mercer Island is insular now, wait til we have to pay $3.80 to branch out. Some residents may never be seen off-Island again.

Mercer Island residents ought to get some kind of a break, like a reduced rate or free passage over half the island. Or we could bring back the Ferry Dawn and avoid the bridge altogether.

Gratuitous Fear-Mongering

Of course, another alternative to this plan is that we underfund transportation (it’s the Seattle way) or fail to pass a plan altogether. Then we face: not tolls, not traffic, but total disaster. Realistically, I-90 isn’t at much risk of failing, but fear is a great motivator and I needed an excuse to include this Youtube video of the old I-90 bridge sinking.

The Other Side

The other side of the argument says that it’s 520 being replaced, not 90, so why should we get tolled for a bridge we’ll barely use? That makes sense to me, but it’s also the parochial approach that got us into this mess. We need a regional approach to transportation or the system loses overall efficiency.

No One Could Seriously Believe That 4 Lanes on ICW are Better than 3, Right?

If you’ve driven regularly past Island Crest Way and Merrimount lately, you’ve seen the temporary traffic control. The stakes that protect right turns have improved matters (earlier accidents in the area made it the worst accident location on the Island) but the dented and somewhat run-over appearance of the stakes leads you to believe that work is still needed.

The problem intersection:

The question I pose: how could any but a three-lane solution make sense? The heart of the argument is that where ICW is four lanes, north of 53rd St, it’s an uninviting highway. Where it’s three lanes (two driving lanes, plus a turn lane with islands in between) it’s a relaxing boulevard.

As evidence, I present photos. Three lanes: pretty.

Four lanes: ugly. Not the house, the street.

There are reasons beyond aesthetics. Sometimes I run in the mornings, and ICW is virtually impossible to cross where it’s four lanes. Even my husband, who is almost universally in favor of faster traffic, all the time, thinks that the speed should be lower. Drivers don’t gain much time from a driving faster on ICW, and the speed creates a lot of danger in a residential community such as the Island.

The City Council has done research and held hearings on the subject. You have to applaud the City Council for being open enough to include, in the notes, this comment: “probably the worst traffic management scheme I have ever seen.” In general the comments included a mix of articulation of problems, like “there’s too much last minute lane shifting/merging” and solutions, such as “Just make ICW a 3 lane roadway.” The only obvious solution, of course.

Ironically, the decision had been made in favor of three lanes, and according to the Reporter, is being reconsidered.

My certainty aside, your comments are welcome. What do you think?

More Traffic Lights on the Island? And a Roundabout

The Mercer Island Reporter reports that the council is considering two new lights downtown, at 27th and 77th and 78th. Not to overdramatize the situation, but our 4-light island is threatening to turn into a teeming metropolis of tense, sweaty people trapped in cars! Actually, the new lights sound like a good idea. But blinking red at off-hours, please.

The article also contains a review of what was, apparently, a very lengthy debate over the options at Island Crest Way and Merrimount:

  1. keep the current four-lane configuration, which would require an expansive expansion;
  2. or use three lanes only, with two travel lanes and a center turn lane. The three-lane configuration would extend to 42nd st.

Recap: council leans toward center lane.

As someone who will probably spend up to eight full days of my life trying to take a left on Island Crest Way, I applaud that leaning and hope it will crystallize into a decision.

Even my husband, who drives swiftly and curses at speed-impaired drivers, says Island Crest needs to slow down- it’s frikkin’ crazy. He suggests a roundabout there. Oh, and some trees down the middle so it doesn’t look like a concrete highway.

Any passionate convictions out there? Four-lane option, three-lane option, or roundabout?

Mercer Island Traffic Photo credit: Roomman on Flickr.

I-90: The Formative Years

Check out these pics of our lovely bridge from when its concrete was freshly poured. Thanks to VintageSeattle, one of my favorite local blogs, for the blast from the past. I-90 over Mercer IslandWe all live in a town with a very large moat, so the I-90 bridge which connects us to the East and the West sides is of great interest. To quote my mother, when she heard we were moving here, “You’re moving to an ISLAND!? In a place that has earthquakes!?”

Not one of VIntage Seattle’s pics, but nice nonetheless. Photo credit: Blinque Blinque.

Ah, but our bridge is no Alaskan Way Viaduct, it’s a strong two-span wonder with a view of Mt. Ranier on nice days and a bike lane. At the caucus in February a couple of long-time Mercer Island residents in our precinct were reminiscing about the days when this span had an alternating lane in the middle and you took your life in your hands to use it. I love stories like that- anyone else out there remember the early days of I-90 across Lake Washington?