The news that leaders in Seattle and on the Eastside came to a general agreement about the shape of future transportation improvements on Highway 520 and Interstate 90 across the lake is good news indeed.
Now, how about some similar cooperation regarding the north end?
The agreement says basically that Seattle and King County Metro will agree to road widening on I-90 and Bellevue and Mercer Island will agree that Sound Transit can begin planning as soon as possible for high capacity transit – possibly including light rail, monorail or bus transit down the center of I-90. On 520, a steering committee agreed to be open to several options, in accordance with Seattle’s stance.
Now it’s the north end’s turn. Sound Transit’s light rail, which now appears as if it will actually be built, will extend southward toward Sea-Tac from downtown Seattle. Under the originally approved Sound Transit light rail plan, no rail was approved for the Eastside. The line was to extend as far north as the University District with a possible extension to Northgate as soon as the money is found.
The Eastside now at least has an agreement. Aside from some express buses now in service in all the regions, all the north end has is the shaft.
Whether widening I-5 by two lanes or more in the north end as is being discussed with the bridges is realistic or not, right-of-way issues for any type of mass transit remain to be resolved. Whether room can be made on I-5 for light rail, monorail or dedicated bus lane, or whether other right-of-way needs to be acquired, is a critical issue that will need to be resolved for any improvements to be made. It’s time to start the discussion.
The most likely reason the Eastside has an agreement is that it pressed for one. Maybe it’s time for some of the leaders in Snohomish and north King counties to start squeaking so our wheels up here will get some grease.