Mayor McGinn should step aside and let the 520 project proceed
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is trying once again to stall the Highway 520 bridge project to assure that light rail could be included sooner rather than later. It's time to move forward.
IN every public debate, in the run-up to every major project, the time comes to move out of the planning phase and into action mode. That moment has arrived with the Highway 520 bridge replacement connecting Seattle and Bellevue.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has offered the community a chance to consider, and reconsider, the possibility of slowing down efforts to retool the project to accommodate light rail. But he arrives very late to the party. Too late.
Light rail is already planned across Interstate 90 to the Eastside, part of a long-range plan for rail expansion. The Legislature and communities on both sides of Lake Washington have worked for many years to agree on a size, shape and functional plan for the 520 project.
Even if everyone suddenly wanted to change gears and join McGinn — and they do not — there is already insufficient money available to complete the project as currently envisioned, six lanes total, two each way for general purpose and one each way for carpools (three or more people) and transit.
And no one has identified the money that would pay for either light rail across the 520 bridge or extra costs in time or money in roadway infrastructure to accommodate the trains. A delay could take years. Too long for the aging bridge.
Additionally, McGinn does not have the funds — and Seattle might not have the ability to pay — for the additional light-rail line the mayor envisions on Seattle's west side, perhaps from West Seattle to Ballard.
For transit supporters, another pertinent question is where would the buses go on the bridge? And are we back to ground zero for general-purpose traffic — a safer parking lot, as one lawmaker wisecracked?
McGinn believes what he believes. But he is neither grasping nor respecting the enormous amount of regional negotiation and planning that occurred before he arrived. He needs to stop trying to block the Highway 520 project and get out of the way. This project is moving forward.
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.