Sunday, June 22, 2008


I hear that there is talk that the City Council is considering putting several traffic lights on Aurora Ave. (For those of you not living in-or-near Seattle, Aurora Ave is the old Highway 99 going through the city from north-to-south; it moves some 50,000 cars and trucks and is an important transportation corridor and an alternative to the Interstate 5 that alsom goes through the city from north-to-south. In most places, the two roads parrarel each other about two miles apart.) The idea is to put three or four traffic lights to allow east-to-west traffic to cross Aurora at the north end of downtown. Presently, Aurora is six lanes, three in each direction with a continuous Jersey barrier that precludes any cross traffic for about six miles north of downtown (within downtown and for about three miles to the south, Aurora/Highway 99 is either in a tunnel, elevated or next to railroad yards and cannot be crossed.)

In the north end of this uncrossable highway are several convoluted and barely functional underpasses but you can get across. But it is clumsy and bad transportation planning.

Traffic lights will only make it worse.

Suddenly, you have stopping where you once had unimpeded travel.

Worse than that, you have accidents. Pedestrians will be hit, cars will want to make left turns --and they will, with and without the light--and it will be an unholy mess.

Why is this even being considered? Vulcan Industries owns some sixty-five acres in the area around these proposed traffic lights. (And again, for my beloved reader who does not live in Seattle) Who owns Vulcan Industries? Paul Allen.

Allen has somehow come under the sway of some transit/transportation guru who is all 'gu' and no 'ru'. This is transportation planning by someone struck somewhere between "Meet Me In St Louis" and the beginning of World War II.

Allen pushed for--and got--a streetcar put through his area. It is one mile long. It cost $52 million to build. It is going to cost $20 million to run--per year. They say that it is moving 1,000 people a day, but it is more likely half of that (in order to make the numbers look better, I am guessing that Allen and Co. are buying tickets).

This traffic light idea goes against every modern transportation planning idea. And common sense.

What is needed is one more underpass.

Get out your Seattle maps and bring up the area between Denny Way on the south, Galer Street on the north, Interstate 5 on the east and Queen Anne Ave on the west.

Many of the people going from the Queen Anne area going to the Interstate 5--both northbound and southbound--are using Mercer Street (Allen wants to screw this up but though the City Council voted to spend $42 million studying the idea, it is so stupid, it won't happen). The drivers going from Interstate 5 heading west to Queen Anne have to exit, turn north for two hundred feet, turn west onto a two-way road, go through four traffic lights (two are new because of the new Allen insisted streetcar), then travel diagonally southwesterly for about five blocks (under Aurora Ave/Highway 99) and emerge for two more right turns. Finally, go five blocks north (back to about where you started) and turn west to go to Queen Anne.

Or you could build a tunnel under Aurora/Highway 99 at Valley Street and skip the second half of the above paragraph.

But the traffic light idea is even more stupid than the Experience Music Project, another Allen fiasco. It disrupts traffic flow, causes accidents and generally stinks.