Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On The Road Again: Scramble

Shorter Danny Westneat:

"I don't live in Renton, and neither should you."

Watching the local political and media landscape heave and buckle in the wake of the defeat of the unified road/transit proposition has been illuminating and educational, if nothing else. It seems to have broken down into "Never mind the bollocks, fix my roads first". The rail folk are convinced that a rail-only proposal will sail past the electorate without problems, while the pave-to-the-grave crowd is banging the drum loudly about how everything is going to hell unless we replace everything, immediately, and damned to the consequences.

Case in point, the Seattle Times, which used its bully pulpit to campaign longly and loudly against Prop 1, but upon its defeat has been whining equally loudly about the dire state of the 520 bridge and how (horrors!) it might become a toll bridge in order to pay for its replacement. Surely there must be an easier solution that doesn't involve people using the service paying for it, isn't there?

Hence the Westneat column. Why, there's money right OVER THERE, being used for widening the I-405 (which, as readers know, is stressed out for most of the day, and with the growing success of Renton and Bellvue, is only going to get worse). We approved that cash five years ago, and now we're in desperate danger of actually DOING something with it. Quick! Let's rob from the South to fix our immediate problem!

The funny thing is, that Westneat leads off the column with a note about how no one thinks about the (more dangerous of falling down) viaduct anymore, and then proceeds to (you guessed it) ignore the viaduct in order to push the absolute necessity of replacing and upgrading this critical link for the North-of-Seattle to North-of-Belluve commute.

Sorry, Times. Go find your own revenue stream. The 405 expansion is necessary for the very growth that your Business section rah-rahs about (you guys should chat). Maybe you should embrace the idea of tolls, or (shudder) actually man up and raise licensing fees in order to pay for necessary repairs delayed by a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach to taxation.

Not to say that the 520 is not in need. It is, but ripping off Peter to pay Paul is not the way to do it, and fragments the taxpaying public further in what they consider to be "necessary repairs"

More later,

Update: It turns out (thank you Wikipedia) that the 520 WAS originally a toll bridge (those wide areas at the ends used as bus stops were originally where the toll booths were). Gee, I wonder why we moved away from THAT idea.

Update Update: Long-time Seattle resident Larry writes: "520's toll was IIRC, 35 cents, and once the bridge was paid for, it went down to 10 cents! Shortly after I started to drive, they took it down since it cost more to collect the toll, than the amount they were bringing in. The toll booths used to back up quite a ways during rush hour. Of course, it probably backs up much longer now! :)"