SEATTLE - Light rail won't work on the State Route 520 floating bridge without major design and political changes. That's according to that's according to a report commissioned by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.
McGinn isn't backing down, insisting that light rail on 520 could work if the bridge design is changed.
"We have one chance to get it right," said McGinn at a Tuesday morning press conference.
But the report he commissioned says there are major obstacles. It would require:
- Several design changes
- A new environmental impact statement
- The bridge would have to be widened by 10 feet
- More pontoons would have to be added for floatation
"Now's the time to stop, take a look. Design it and build it from the outset to accommodate light rail, which we can do," said McGinn.
The changes could add five more years of design work. But, the mayor says it would only delay the bridge opening by six months to a year. The report also shows that if, someday, 520 were converted to light rail, it would no longer be able to accommodate buses or carpools.
"We're going to open that 520 bridge by 2014," said Gov. Chris Gregoire last week as she signed a major transportation bill. The 520 design does not include light rail.
The mayor has very little political support for his idea.
"We don't agree with the mayor's plan. We think it's too little, too late. It doesn't accommodate the growth and the traffic in the region. It delays our replacement of this very vulnerable bridge," said state Sec. of Transportation Paula Hammond.
Time is running out for the mayor. The Seattle City Council picks its 520 design plan by April 15. The state makes its decision by the end of the month.
McGinn disputes KING 5 News report
On Monday night, KING 5 News reported that Mayor McGinn's own report shows that putting light rail on the new 520 bridge would be expensive and difficult. On Tuesday, the mayor put out a press release saying KING 5's story was untrue, saying KING 5 "did selective editing on the study."
Here's what we reported:
From the study, we said the plan for light rail on Interstate 90 should proceed. "The focus of the effort on 520 … should not replace the current planning and design work underway."
The full, long quote says "Sound Transit's current project to construct light rail to the Eastside over I-90 should continue unabated. The focus of effort on SR 520 should be assessing the potential to add a second cross-Lake Washington LRT corridor, not to replace the current planning and design work underway."
The author of the study, says he was talking about planning for light rail on I-90.
"We are not suggesting that this high-capacity transit look or light rail on 520 in any way replace or slow down Sound Transit's work on putting light rail on I-90," said Tim Payne of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates.