1/8 Big investments in our future, not budget cuts, are the way out of a recession. In the Great Recession too many capital projects were put on ice or scaled back. Let's not make the same mistake. Instead, let’s build light rail faster. https://crosscut.com/2020/04/saving-washington-case-investing-light-rail-now
2/8 Here's one idea for building the Ballard-West Seattle light rail line faster: Convert the underutilized lanes in the SR99 tunnel for the extension’s downtown stretch. There’s plenty of room in the tunnel for trains.
3/8 Vehicle demand for the SR99 tunnel is far weaker than expected. The SR99 tunnel was built to accommodate 110,000 vehicle trips but actual utilization (pre-COVID 19) has been only 75,000-80,000 vehicle trips a day.
4/8 Moreover, WSDOT has a financial incentive to allow Sound Transit to lease a portion of the tunnel. The SR99 financial plan was predicated on recouping $200 million in costs from tolling. But those revenue estimates were based on the older vehicle demand predictions.
5/8 And those haven't come to pass. With toll revenue falling short, converting some of the lanes in the tunnel for light rail would allow WSDOT to recoup costs that flagging toll revenue would not.
6/8 There is precedent for this kind of project. The light rail extension to Bellevue includes the permanent conversion of highway lanes for rail with Sound Transit compensating WSDOT for the use of the I-90 center lanes.
7/8 One potential drawback is the only LRT stops downtown would be at SoDo and South Lake Union. But access within the downtown core from those stops could be reasonable with careful planning of connections.
8/8 Sound Transit should study this idea. Let’s not make the same mistakes of the last recession. Let's keep workers working, address congestion and fight climate change all at once!
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