City Hall

Council Releases 520 Study; Mayor's Study to Drop Tomorrow

By Erica C. Barnett March 31, 2010

The city council has released the executive summary of a consultants' report on potential improvements to the new 520 bridge, including the possibility of putting light rail across the bridge. Today's release only includes the council's portion of the study, which focuses on how the bridge connects to Seattle on the west side; Mayor Mike McGinn will release his half of the study, which focuses on the feasibility of putting light rail on the bridge, tomorrow afternoon, his spokesman Mark Matassa said earlier today.

The council's study, which will be released in full tomorrow, focused on how to improve the state legislature's preferred "A-plus" option, which does not include rail; as such, it summary includes no reference to either light rail or "high-capacity transit." Instead, it recommends the council ask the governor and state legislature to pass a law raising the minimum occupancy standard for HOV lanes, increasing tolls, or both, and suggests that the council stay "deeply involved" in a legislative work group established by Gregoire that will consider improvements to transit on the bridge.

"This portion of the corridor is sufficiently sensitive, environmentally and politically, that the probability is there will be but one opportunity to 'get it right in terms of construction for the next 75 to 100 years."

At a downtown forum sponsored by CityClub this afternoon, McGinn said he would be "bringing forward some ideas for how to accommodate light rail [on the bridge] from the start" tomorrow. He says that unless the state agrees to consider a different design alternative, it will be impossible to put light rail on the bridge.

"The question for the public is, do we want, 10, 20, 30 years from now, to be saying, 'By golly, when we built that 520 bridge, we should have built light rail?" McGinn said. "The way it's designed right now, there's no design accommodation for light rail  It can't be accommodated with what's being built now." Yesterday, Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed a provision of the state's transportation budget that would have limited the bridge height to 20 feet.

McGinn's office has not yet returned calls seeking a reaction to the summary of the report.
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