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.
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.