Election News from Washington State

From the Seattle PI:

Voters reject shortened monorail line

Initiative 912: Urban strongholds successfully keep gas tax

The latter is signficant for our region as $50M of the gas tax in jeopardy goes to fund design work on the Columbia Crossing project.


13 responses to “Election News from Washington State”

  1. Chris,
    bet you are glad you are not the chair of a monorail CAC! There are some Portland vs Seattle lessons here somewhere. Portland may be short on “vision”, but it does get things built.

    re the fuel tax, I was hoping it would be repealed…an easy way to set back the River Crossing a few years and save us from 20-40K new auto trips in North Portland.

  2. I am a resident of the Puget Sound Region, allright, Seattle, and have been following Portland’s Light Rail. I am one who voted for the Monorail at least twice. I remember commuting on the one we already have to get to work at the Key Arena(wait, I like it’s older name better, Seattle Center Colliseum). It was an easy walk through the old armory(now the Seattle Center House) to the Monorail Platform, and 90 seconds after leaving the station, I was at 5th and Pine waiting for the #14 Trackless Trolley. I am an election poll-worker at King County Elections, and was commuting home from my precinct, and saw one of the Light Rail Stations under construction. The toughest part of the Initial LRT segment is about to begin, tunneling under Beacon Hill. This Monorail Vote, I said No.

    It was the monorail issue that helped defeat I-912. Seattle Voters reported to the polling places or voted by absentee to reject the monorail, and at the same time, reject I-912. It also might have helped a few pro-transit politicians keep their jobs. Mayor Nickels skillfully sent this to the voters, he gave the SPMA the ultimatum, and they came up with a worse line than the one that had the financial problem.
    Already on transit forums up here, there are proposals to use BRT, Streetcars, or even LRT.

    As for the Gas Tax, sorry Portland on the Interstate Bridge, but It might have been the site of all that extra traffic on US2 headed up Stevens Pass that got the Snohomish County and rural King County voters that lived along Highway 2 to rise up and join the rest of King County at the polls and reject this. I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass just proved how vital some safety improvements are needed. A rockslide damaging the westbound lanes, proved how vital one project was, and could probably even be accelerated now.


  3. Jeff Mapes had a piece in the Oregonian yesterday (I couldn’t find it on Oregon Live to link to) noting that the I912 (gas tax repeal) failed in Clark County.

    I wonder if we can be encouraged about that with respect for future ballots on things like light rail to Vancouver?

  4. I hope things turn around in Clark County. I wished that Light Rail on the Interstate Bridge could be like the Esquinalt and Nanaimo station up in Victoria B.C. That is where the Malahat Dayliner, a Rail Diesel Car terminates, less than a block after crossing a bridge. LRT in Vancouver could just be that, for now. Up here in Seattle we have hostility toward rail transit that seems to have been here since April 13, 1941, the day the last Seattle Municipal Street Railway streetcars made there last run. At least in 1996 there were enough voters finally ready to try something. SOUNDER Commuter Rail is coming along slowly, but with the 4 trains it now has running at the highest load factors since start-up. The thing that anti-rail activists and talk-show hosts like Dori Monson(KIRO 710AM streams his show on the Internet) do not get, is that if these trains get full, they can just add another car. For the buses that they think should be the only choice, to add another bus to a schedule, would require another driver.

    Portland built Light Rail without a subway. We built a Downtown Transit Tunnel, without Light Rail, and had suburban bus riders thinking they could halt the conversion. Still, this could have been a case of forward thinking, had the tunnel’s rails been properly insulated, but the tunnel opening day was aproaching, and costs were a factor, and at $450 million(1989 money), it was already 10% over-budget. I admire how TriMet has kept costs of the Red and Yellow Lines low by using as much of the Blue Line as possible. Same foresight with banking the Right Of Way on I-205. Up here, the Seattle Transit Commission asked the State Highway Commission to reserve some right of way in the corridor which became Interstate 5 for future rail transit use. They were denied.

  5. I’m thankful that I912 was defeated for only the issue of the Columbia River Crossing. I hope that the two states can compromise and incorporate a safer bridge (most traffic issues in the corridor are related to not having any shoulders) that is expandable and has a light rail and high speed rail capacity engineered into the design.

    This way, we have a new crossing that delivers on safety improvements for the highway and doesn’t support the “car above all” crowd. If we can solve this disconnected “urban style” between the two sides of the river, we should be granted sainthood.

    This Columbia Crossing Crossing is going to be a classic study for the global planning crowds for many years to come.


  6. “I wonder if we can be encouraged about that with respect for future ballots on things like light rail to Vancouver?”

    No. Vancouver isn’t opposed to light rail, but suburban Clark County is and it is growing in political influence. On the other hand they love their roads.

    “most traffic issues in the corridor are related to not having any shoulders”

    Ray, I think this is wishful thinking. There is nothing particularly unsafe about the current I5 bridges themselves. The congestion at the bridge is largely created by the mismatch of 7 freeway lanes in Clark County converging on what is 3 lanes at the bridge.

  7. Granted there is always going to be issues when you go from 4 lanes in one point (Washington); to three narrow lanes with no shoulders to boot (current situation on the spans); then to two lanes (at Delta Park).

    My point about the lack of shoulders is that the I5 Partnership and the traffic study done for it mentions the lack of shoulder space being a major issue because any traffic accident becomes major in this corridor. There is no margin for error.


  8. Clark County should learn from Seattle, and get the ball rolling on Light Rail BEFORE it is too late. Seattle did not need Light Rail(in the eyes of the voters) until the late 1990s, and suburban King County Voters(with Money) on the Eastside of Lake Washington were asking for more bus service(in addition to what they had already stolen from Seattle, and were planning on taking more in the next 6 year plan), and they had as a board member representing them, a vocal anti-light rail guy that nearly brought Central LINK to a halt. He is now the Attourney General, and is still fighting it. At around 500,000 residents, Seattle is still the largest city in King County, whose population is going to be 2 million by the end of the decade.

    Anyway, I hope both Washington and Oregon compromise on the Interstate Crossing. Bridges should have shoulders for emergencies. I think they should be of equal width, so a car that has a problem does not have to cross 3 or 4 lanes of traffic to get to the shoulder if they were in the left lane.

    I-5 in the Seattle area has the seme lane variance problem. Around Tukwilla, due to the interchanges with SR-518 and I-405, It is up to nearly 8 lanes, in each direction, in addition to the HOV lanes(which get heavy use by buses during rush hour, buses that only have every seat full in many cases). At night, very little traffic, makes one wonder why there are so many lanes. The last time I was in Portland, I took a Greyhound that arrived about 1PM, and it got stuck in traffic on I-5, and diverted over Interstate Ave. Is traffic in North Portland always congested about that time?

  9. “Granted there is always going to be issues when you go from 4 lanes in one point ”

    The problem is not just four to three. There are seven lanes of freeway in Washington where the primary destination is the bridge – I5, SR500 and SR 14.

    “My point about the lack of shoulders is that the I5 Partnership and the traffic study done for it mentions the lack of shoulder space being a major issue because any traffic accident becomes major in this corridor. There is no margin for error.”

    Shoulders along I5 were eliminated in order to create an additional travel lane. There is little reason to think the same thing won’t happen again. The problem is that all the good intentions get trumped by demands to relieve congestion.

    Capacity created to serve the ports is being sacrificed to Clark County commuters. The breakdown lanes were sacrificed to Clark County commuters. The lane created to provide capacity for traffic originating in north Portland is being sacrificed to Clark County commuters. Any new capacity will simply spur more home building in Clark County for people who work in Portland. That may be a benefit, but we ought to be clear that there are no other benefits that will be allowed to trump that demand. Transit has the same benefit, providing access to jobs in Portland, but at far less cost to both the treasury and the people who have to live with the traffic.

    Its time to stop acting as though adding transit mitigates the increases in traffic. It doesn’t. It is just an alternative that gets used in addition to the people who use the new capacity created for autos.

  10. Most of us old timers remember the bridge with four lanes and shoulders. All we are asking for is choice. Give the people of Clark County other ways to commute. Give the I5 Corridor a fast high speed corridor for passenger trains not what is currently in use (three freight bridges and 5 mph top speeds!). Let people who can walk or ride a bike to work or play be able to do so. Include MAX sooner rather than later (even if its only to Downtown Vancouver).

    But also make the new crossing expandable for more auto/truck traffic since this new bridge will be here hopefully for the next one hundred years.


  11. For all these highway mega-projects, they should get it right, this time. One of ours, was built with the lowest bidder using cheap rebar, and had the Nisqually Quake lasted 16 more seconds, it might have collapsed. In 1949, when the freeways were still pipe-dreams, Seattlites and the state began construction of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and were confident that that little 7.0 Earthquake that year was a fluke. Now after three earthquakes in the 6.0 or higher range over the past 56 years, we know not to cut corners because of earthquakes, and they strike in the least expected corners of the state(Spokane thought they were immune, and a few tremblors happened there a few years ago).

    Let’s build them right so they will last 100 years.

    Also, perhaps their should be a high-speed rail line built, these trains used on Amtrak Cascades are capable of speeds between 90-110MPH, and that is what TALGO was building about 10 years ago, they have two trains that are even faster. The TALGO XXI and the TALGO 350, which the former gets 110-140MPH, and the Diesel-Versions Prototype holds the record for fastest diesel passenger train 152MPH on testing. The latter gets speeds of over 200MPH!

    (Talgo homepage itself not working, this was the one for the TALGO America subsidiary)

  12. Just a reminder…
    The I-5 Task Force, of which I was a member, recommended (and this has been approved by every relevant government and agency) 4 additional lanes…either arterial or auxilary…over the Columbia AND light rail. No LRT, no bridge (period)! That was the deal.
    Data supports an all arterial solution…1/3 to 1/2 of the traffic is local and should not be on a freeway. We need a Broadway Bridge or a Steel Bridge…lightrail with arterial lanes.
    The only bridge I would support now is a MAX only structure, with a wide bike/ped facility. Leave everything else as it is. Nobody is forced to move to Vancouver!

  13. I don’t disagree about creating choices. I think we do need to provide ways for people in Clark County to get across the river other than driving.

    But this idea is an example of the fundamentally flawed reasoning behind the new bridge:

    “make the new crossing expandable for more auto/truck traffic since this new bridge will be here hopefully for the next one hundred years.”

    The problem is that you have to get traffic on and off the freeway not just over the bridge.

    The only way a bridge expansion works is if Portland creates the infrastructure to absorb the traffic. It will need provide a dramatically expanded street and highway network. And it will need to provide parking for all the vehicles that use it.

    The current imbalance on the two sides of the river with seven lanes on the Washington side and ultimately two on the Portland side is mitigated by the bridge. Expand the bridge and you need to expand the other facilities those extra vehicles will need. Or you watch businesses in downtown Portland and the regional centers die because access to them is choked off by traffic.

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