Northwest NEWS

December 6, 1999

Front Page

traffic map

Traffic solutions are years away

by Gwenn Maxfield, special to the Weekly

   The Eastside and Seattle are nationally known for having the third-worst traffic problems in the United States.

   Lake Washington imposes commuting challenges between the Eastside communities and Seattle. And growth in the technology and related industries has added vehicles to the roads faster than construction, funding, and public support for an expanded transportation system have responded.

   To address this daily problem and seek recommendations that can be supported by local citizens, political groups, and state regulators, the Trans-Lake Washington study was authorized and funded by the State legislature in 1997.

   Forty-seven members representing public agencies, neighborhoods, businesses, and advocacy groups met for 14 months to identify a set of "reasonable and feasible solutions" to improving mobility across and/or around Lake Washington. Monthly newsletters, surveys, workshops, and websites also provided citizens an opportunity to become involved with the process.

   On July 16, 1999, the Trans-Lake Washington Study committee produced a list of recommended actions that may combine to provide additional capacity, improve reliability, reduce demand for highway travel, and reduce impacts on neighborhoods. Their focus was on motorized and non-motorized options in the SR-522, SR-520, and I-90 corridors.

   Recognizing that the traffic solutions are regional in scope and interconnected in use, the proposals integrate freeways, HOV lanes, bike lanes, and bus/rail systems. The group also looked at and coordinated land use plans, trip reduction goals, and transportation pricing plans.

   A summary of the committee's endorsements include:

   Mitigation and Enhancement: Use sensitive project design to avoid or minimize impacts and engage communities in developing mitigation and enhancement options such as noise walls, lids, and tunnels.

   SR-522: Add bus lanes, bike/pedestrian, and safety improvements.

   SR-520: Evaluate various combinations of alternatives:

   Transportation Demand Management/Transportation Systems Management (TDM/TSM): Analyze the effects of "committing substantial resources" to TDM and TSM strategies, such as transit and vanpool subsidies, changes to land use plans, trip reduction goals, transportation pricing, and bus/HOV system improvements.

   The results of the Study Committee signify a new and improved level of cooperation between community, business, and neighborhood representatives.

   "There were some courageous people who bent over backwards to meet in the middle. We encompassed some very diverse desires and came up with a plan that put in a priority basis what the region should look at first," stated Paul Cowles, Northshore businessman and former Bothell Councilmember, who served on the committee.

   Next, the recommendations will be presented to the Transportation Commission, legislature, Sound Transit, Puget Sound Regional Council, and locally-affected governments, including Woodinville, Bothell, Redmond, and Kirkland. An environmental analysis must be completed before any work can begin. Impacts on neighborhoods and sensitive areas, air and water quality, and endangered species must be evaluated.

   Decisions must be reached on which governmental agencies will manage the environmental impact statement (EIS) process. Funding must be obtained. It is predicted that any construction is years away.

   "Implementation," continued Cowles, " will first begin 10 years from now. Improvements won't happen quickly."

   Further information and involvement can be obtained from these sources: call 206-464-5878, or write to Office of Urban Mobility, 401 Second Ave South, Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98104-2862; or visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/translake/.