Monday, February 1, 2010

Stuck with ugly?

Though their cause may ultimately prove futile (a fact admitted by our own State Senator, Ed Murray), opponents of the State’s plans for re-engineering the 520 floating bridge were out in force this morning for a news conference in the Arboretum, during which they spelled out their objections to both the proposed 30-foot high floating bridge and Plan A+ for the bridge’s west approach. A significant number of elected public officials made their voices heard at the event, including all of the 43rd District’s legislators (Representatives Jamie Pedersen and Frank Chopp, in addition to Senator Murray), City Council members Nick Licata and Mike O’Brien, and Seattle’s new mayor, Mike McGinn (shown in the photo below).

They, and the rest of the Seattle City Council, are—at minimum—on board to delaying the 520 decision-making process for about 120 days in order to look carefully at alternatives that are more mass-transit intensive than Plan A+, the option that the Legislative Work Group has proposed to the Governor and Legislature.

The public officials who were present--along with the Coalition for a Sustainable 520 (made up of the Seattle community councils most impacted by 520 and the local boating community), the Arboretum Foundation, the Cascade Bicycle Club, and the Sierra Club--want more than just a delay in the process. In essence, they would like to see a scaled back plan for 520 that does not have as wide a footprint through Portage Bay and across Foster Island, allows for no cars in the HOV lanes (only buses and, potentially, light rail), and does not include new much-wider on and off ramps in the Arboretum. They’re also not too happy with that high and ugly floating bridge that is being planned.

But in spite of their best efforts, ugly (in both its figurative and literal senses) is still a likely outcome in the opinion of many observers, including some members of the Coalition. Publicola, a Seattle political blog, sums the situation with this headline: “Seattle’s Preferred 520 Alignment Unlikely to Find Support in Olympia.” The blog argues with some persuasion that the process is too far along and the Seattle City Council too divided for the opponents of Plan A+ to get anything more than changes around the edges of the proposed 520 design. The basic idea of six lanes with two of them dedicated to HOV (car pools included) was established as the basis for all design options years ago. And no plans currently exist to bring light rail across the Lake using the 520 corridor.

Several of the politicians present referred to themselves as being in favor of construction and not obstruction. The issue, as they see it, is whether or not the new 520 will be part of an integrated and well-thought-out transit plan for the region or whether it will simply represent a short-term fix for getting more cars across the Lake more quickly. “This is a decision that is going to have a profound effect on our environment,“ said Representative Pedersen. “This is not a decision that should be entered into lightly.”
(For previous posts on the issue of 520, click here.)
[Upper graphic, courtesy of the Coalition for a Sustainable 520, shows a view of 520 from the lawn at Canterbury Shores with an outline of the Plan A+ configuration for that location. Graphic by Legal Media Experts Group.]

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