The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2002

"YOU BUGGAHS CRAZY, O WAT?" (Seattle Mega-Freeway Plan)

From the Cabalmaster:

The above variation on a Shakespearian theme (Twelfth Night, “My masters, are you mad?”) by James Grant Benton, the late Hawaiian comedian, comes to mind as we peruse recent news from Seattle.

(And no, we’re not referring to the City of Seattle’s monorail plan!)

State and local transportation officials are assembling a “wish list” of highway “mega-projects.” These include replacement of the four-lane Evergreen Point Floating Bridge across Lake Washington with a six-lane structure, designed for future “expandability” to accommodate light rail or (naturally) monorail. The two additional lanes would be for buses and high-occupancy vehicles. Local officials from “Eastside” suburban communities favored an eight-lane bridge. (See: “Plan to widen 520 bridge wins key backing,” Seattle P-I, Friday, September 6, 2002;

We think that this plan, and five similar schemes in the Seattle area (see: are divorced from reality -- of the financial variety. Total cost in today’s dollars is about $25 billion, to be spent over the next 10-15 years.

You won’t win any friends in Washington State for saying this, but $25 million is a lot of money for a state with just six million people (projected to increase to 7.5 million by 2020). This proposed highway outlay makes the estimated cost of an LRT subway between downtown Seattle and the University of Washington look like the "bargain of the century" in comparison.

The Seattle metropolitan region has three million people today (projected to grow to 3.8 million by 2020). In other words, the highway mega-projects would cost something like $400-500 per person per year-–not including interest. Current funding sources would provide nowhere near this amount. And state transportation officials admit that tolls would raise a “disappointingly small” share of the cost.

Substantial tax increases and bond issues will be necessary to pay for the “megaprojects.” We wouldn’t be surprised if state and local voters replied, “You buggahs crazy, o wat?”

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