Re-Racking RTID

With the Governor announcing the priorities of Puget Sound’s highway projects approved in 2003 will have to be “re-racked” to account for cost overruns, the current round of projects under consideration by RTID may suffer a similar fate. The I-405 corridor will be one of the likeliest projects for deferral. Some suggestions on making an impact without as much expensive concrete past the jump.

The current RTID “Blueprint for Progress” calls for adding two lanes each way from I-90 to Renton. There isn’t going to be enough money, and these new general purpose lanes would be full soon after they open, anyway.

A better & cheaper idea? Fund some other elements of WSDOT’s I-405 Plan instead. The BRT system proposed for I-405 has been languishing: the target date set in the orginial plan is 2030, for a system Sound Transit has built more than half of already.

I-405 BRT
BRT system from WSDOT’s I-405 Corridor Master Plan

A rapid transit line connecting Eastside communities will greatly increase overall transit ridership, and maximize the benefits of light rail expansion. Nearly all of the stations are already in place with direct HOV access. The “trunk” of this line would have rail-like service levels: 5-7 minute headways during the day.

However, for BRT to work it needs to move faster than congested traffic. Forecasts show 15% lower ridership in 2030 unless the HOV lane along 405 is made 3+. This is going to be a very politically unpopular move, so the likely outcome will be transit suffering.

The RTID funding would be better spent adding a single High Occupancy Toll lane each direction. Then, it and the existing HOV lane can be operated as a four lane express roadway.

The new HOT lanes can be variably tolled to ensure they remain congestion free. They could also provide an option for increasing the reliability of freight delivery by opening them to trucks. With the planned improvement of SR 167 to include HOT lanes, this would create a continuous Eastside corridor for transit and freight, while increasing options for single occupant drivers who are willing to pay for speed.

This could obviate the need to build two of the four extra lanes proposed on southern 405. Even if all are built, we need to ensure two of them each way are HOV or HOT lanes to make transit work in this corridor. A similar project is under construction along I-95 in Maryland: (click for full size)
I-95 HOT Lanes

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