Tuesday, May 26, 2009

ACTT Workshop: Washington

The Federal Highway Administration conducts Accelerated Construction Technology Transfer study sessions. Back in March of 2004 the FHA hosted one of these in Seattle where it appears all of the "decisions" regarding the configuration of the 520 replacement bridge were made. Yes, even before much of anything was know of the soil conditions, one of the key WSDOT misinformation points, the construction industry decided a floating bridge structure was in their best interests. Design and construction of a real bridge would require outside experts and WSDOT knows how to build a 50 year pontoon bridge.

There are some really good points brought up. For example replacing (not eliminating) the Montlake Flyer stop with a true intermodal station at Husky Stadium. The idea being that this would eliminate (not reduce) the need for buses crossing 520 to go downtown. They also recommend consolidating all eastside flyer stops between I-405 and the water to one at Belleview way. Of course that would be a "hardship" for the dozens of people that access the flyer stops at Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point. Worse yet, it might eliminate State funding for lids over the freeway at those "Points".

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Unbuild Alternative

In all Environmental Impact Statements it is required that the "no build" alternative be studied as a baseline. How about including an unbuild alternative? That's exactly what they are doing to "save" Flint Michigan; a planned shrinkage by demolishing homes.

You don't have to travel to the rust belt to see this happening. A couple of weeks ago they demolished a perfectly good home just up the street from me in Bellevue, WA. It was unoccupied and sat in the middle of three other unoccupied homes. In Flint the curse is unemployment, poverty and substandard living. In Bridle Trails in seems few people actually work for a living, the BMWs and Mercedes are more and more no longer the current model year and clearly as evidenced by the hundreds of offers I've had to buy and bulldoze my home the living conditions are substandard.

Given the ever expanding scope and cost of the 520 replacement maybe we should examine the "unbuild alternative" and just buy out everyone in Bellevue and move them into high density housing around the new Link stations.

Favorite quote from Dan Kildee, the Genesee County treasurer:
It will be a delicate process to decide which to favor, Mr. Kildee acknowledged from the driver’s seat of his Grand Cherokee.

I'm sure it will all be fair and equitable. We all know the money makes more money when developers ante up for favorable zoning and other perks in a growing economy. Therefore, in a shrinking economy the poor should be the big winners, right? Something similar has been repeatedly proposed for Buffalo, NY's urban wasteland, otherwise known as "the East Side", but there's been little progress. That's not surprising given the priorities of Buffalo politicians (ie, an expose recently showed that $30,000 in anti poverty funds were used for officials' Blackberrys). I wish Flint better luck.

NPR says, Flint, Michigan Sheds Foreclosed Properties
And the New York Times, An Effort to Save Flint, Mich., by Shrinking It

Monday, May 04, 2009

Enough to Make You Buy Vista?

A just published article by the Seattle Times, Bellevue eyes Sound Transit train tunnel; Microsoft wants surface route, Jim Stanton, Microsoft senior community-affairs director goes on record explaining why "the company" wants Sound Transit to spend the money on extending Link Light Rail to Redmond instead of burying it in Bellevue.

Transit staffers say tunneling through downtown would take a year longer than a surface route — if a financial plan can be patched together by 2010.

Microsoft believes the goal must be "getting the line built as quickly as possible," Jim Stanton, senior community-affairs director, told the transit governing board. "The success of East Link is directly tied to our ability to deliver regional mobility in a coordinated and cost-effective way."

Among other motivations, the company doesn't want the line to end in Overlake, drawing park-and-ride traffic toward its campus there. If tracks go farther to Redmond, employees from Sammamish, east Redmond and Woodinville can step aboard there, he said.

OK, maybe I'm not ready to ditch Linux quit yet but perhaps I'd consider an XBox Sounders jersey :-)

Another Cable Stay Bridge Proposal

Another cable stay bridge proposal for the SR-99 viaduct replacement. This time though it's not offshore oil derrik like floatation assisted piers spanning Eliott bay. In fact it's a proposal to build it above the existing viaduct while that structure remains in use. Supposedly this idea was vetted by WSDOT and "concealed" from the public. A well respected bridge building and mega project builder did submit a proposal to WSDOT. If true this would provide 6 lanes instead of four for a quarter of the cost. I'd note though that the proposed bridge sections only span a half mile while the proposed tunnel is two miles. On a cost per foot basis this make the two about even. It's not clear how much of the additional length is taken up with the supporting "approach" bridges and how much, if any is a surface alternative.

Although the roadway would be higher it's also much wider so I'm not sure that does much to open up the waterfront. The additional width appears in the proposal to extend inland. That may end up being a bumbershoot for the surface route (a feature of any viaduct option) and for part of a large waterfront park. There's a switch, build a freeway to put a roof over a park!

I'd love to see and hear more about this option. I fear though that any such proposal would be torpedoed by wealthy condo owners downtown who's views would be impacted.