Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dumb, Dumber Dumbest

WSDOT is continuing with it's dark of the night pontoon construction. As I noted earlier Govenor Gregoire's "plan" is that in the event the bridge starts to sink we'll raft up the replacement pontoons to keep it open. WSDOT phrases it like this:

Crews would construct and store pontoons until they were needed for a recovery effort. If the pontoons are not needed for emergency use, they would be used for the planned replacement of the SR 520 bridge.

Nobody seriously believes a "recovery effort" would ever be attempted and the problem with the second part of the statement, "they would be used for the planned replacement" is that there is no plan for the replacement. Well, the west side constituents have a plan alright; cripple the process so that only a substandard six lane bridge can ever be built.

Again from the WSDOT site:

Why is WSDOT building pontoons?

Pontoons are the foundation of a floating bridge and can take several years to construct. They are large, hollow concrete structures designed to support the weight of the road, plus the cars, trucks and buses that use the bridge daily.

Notice something missing? The new 520 bridge is supposed to be "rail capable" (which is sort of like two year old computers being "Vista capable"). The problem is the pontoons being constructed are inadaquate for the additional load that would be required for rail.

WSDOT freely admits that the dark of the night pontoon construction will sidestep the Environmental Impact Statement (that's the real reason for the "emergency recovery" cover story). Once again from the WSDOT site:

What is the project timeline?


- Begin advanced construction methods and engineering effort.
- Issue draft environmental impact statement (EIS).

- Issue final EIS.

And then farther down:

WSDOT plans to begin building pontoons at an existing facility in 2009, develop a new construction facility, and begin constructing pontoons at the new facility by 2011.

Damn the EIS, full speed ahead! The major pontoon construction site is slated for one of two privately held sites in Grays Harbor. Evidently the publicly owned Port land was "environmentally unsuitable". Concrete construction on this scale has never been done in this area but Grays Harbor needs a public works program so instead of using Port of Tacoma facilities that recently completed pontoons for the new half of the Hood Canal bridge or building them "on site" using the concrete plant in Kenmore the State plans to barge these up the coast and around Cape Flattery. No big, the new bridge is supposed to withstand 92mph wind gusts. Just think of this as "quality control".

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Teaching vs Bridge Building

The State has a budget and the legislature really does have to live within that budget. Let's look at K-12 education and see if there's some money here that ought better be spent on something like bridge construction.

Bellevue spends just over $4,000 per student. OK, figure 30 students would I take a salary of $120,000 per year to teach? Sounds good. Wait, that's for everything. Do I want 30 snot nose kids in my house. NO, not even if it's just nine months out of the year. Start to add in staff like nurses and library resources and $4k per student starts to sound like a bargin.

We're not spending too much on education. We're spending too much education money on things that don't educate the students. We're spending too much on administrative costs but the catch 22 is the administrators decide how the money gets spent. Well, that and the teachers union but I don't have the energy to get into that right now.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bridge Recipe Gives Me Gas

The article 520 bridge bill may be recipe for more delays in today's Seattle SomeTimes (H/T to Mikey) makes me want to belch. First off this isn't a propsal for the bridge. It's a hearing on HB 2211, an authorization to toll SR 520. Introduced by Rep. Clibborn (D Mercer Island) it prohibits tolling I-90. There is an alternative bill, HB 2319, introduced by Rep Hunter (D Medina) which would toll I-90 subject to certain conditions (congestion from traffic avoiding the tolls on 520 or failure to meet revenue projections with a toll on 520 only).

  • Spend a mere $4.6 billion on the corridor from Interstate 5 to Redmond.

    A mere $125,000 per foot. We could sell commemorative bricks for $250 a piece and not only pay for it but pave it. We only need to sell 21 million of them. That's only six bricks a piece for everyone in the greater Seattle area. Maybe this isn't a great plan but it's better than anything the legislature's come up with.

    House Speaker Frank Chopp (as in the Great Wall of Chopp as his viaduct replacement has been dubbed) wants a $2B tunnel under the Montlake Cut to connect with the UW. To be fair I don't see this option adding $2B to the project. In fact it shouldn't cost half that amount to build the tunnel and the Pacific Street interchange options are probably similar in price and ugly as sin. If the tunnel was transit only and tied into the Husky Stadium Link station I think it would be worth it.

    The call for the 520 roadway to run in shallow cut at the Washington Park Arboretum and cover the roadway with a Mercer Island style lid are my big objection. This precludes a standard interchange at Montlake and does away with the Metro flyer stop. I think the best solution for now is a west bound exit only and east bound on ramp only. Both of these would be HOV available to single occupancy vehicles from 7PM until 7AM (maybe 5AM to match existing HOV restrictions on I-405). The corridor should be laid out so that a tunnel can be added later. Perhaps space reserved for this could be a center roadway flyer stop in the interim. Project mitigation should be limited to making the new interchange no worse than what it is replacing in terms of visual impact and sound levels (that shouldn't be too hard). Any additional mitigation must come from Local Improvement District funding.

    Collecting tolls on 520 is something that needs to happen not only for funding but for Traffic Demand Management. As the article points out the feds will kick in free money right now if the State will implement it. I think diversion traffic to I-90 to "beat the toll" will quickly change peoples minds about tolling I-90. That's the intent of the late session bill HB 2319 introduced by Rep. Hunter and Eddy. Money from tolls on I-90 have to be used on that corridor according to E2SHB 1773 passed by the legislature last session. The reduction in the diversion traffic is the reason tolling I-90 makes such a big difference to revenue generated by the tolls on 520.

    I really loved this thought from Rep. Clibburn:

    And if the Montlake problem isn't solved, Clibborn said, DOT could install the new pontoons on the lake, and fasten those to the Seattle stub of the existing bridge — to deal with the safety risk of the old bridge sinking.

    Sort of like how we all built tree forts when we were kids. Take what ever you have lying around, lash it all together and see what you come up with. Somehow I don't think this sort of construction "planning" would fly with her if it was a bridge to Mercer Island. The dark of the night pontoon construct is really just a tactic to assure that the bridge can never support anything more than six substandard lanes. No room to add additional transit in the future, no breakdown lane and reduced speed limits because the narrow lanes don't meet the minimum federal standards.