April 17, 2013 at 5:31 PM
State needs plan to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely
The chief engineer was fired, as if that would offset the potential cost overruns of tens of millions of dollars [“Pontoon flaws sink top state engineer,” front page, April 13].
In order to ensure that taxpayers’ funds are wisely spent on public projects, the following should be implemented by the state Legislature:
• The state shall solicit public bids on the basis of a performance specification. The contractor is thus responsible for design, construction and function.
• The state shall reserve the right to award the contract based on “best value,” not just “low cost.”
• The contractor selected shall sign a performance bond ensuring the qualified and timely delivery of the finished project. Adequate liquidated damages shall be included to protect the financial exposure of the state i.e., the taxpayers.
Claus Windelev, Seattle
April 12, 2013 at 8:07 AM
DUI penalties must be more severe
My closest friend was Morgan Williams, the innocent victim killed in last week’s head-on collision with a vehicle being driven by Michael Robertson the wrong way on Highway 520 [“DUI again? Wrong-way driver kills Seattle woman,” front page, April 5]. He was a repeat DUI offender and should not have had the means to get behind the wheel, endangering all who came into his vicinity.
Not only am I incredibly sad at the loss of this wonderful woman, but I’m also incredibly frustrated that our laws and court system aren’t able to prevent these tragedies from happening.
While tougher penalties and fines may influence some people’s decisions regarding whether to get behind the wheel after drinking, those policies are based on the assumption that those people are making rational decisions.
For someone with a chronic drinking problem, there is no rational thought process. In those cases, the decision that they won’t drive needs to be made for them. We need to enact laws that place a physical barrier between them and the road.
I support Rep. Goodman’s proposal that a vehicle that has been impounded due to a DUI should not be released from the impound lot until it has been fitted with an interlock device. The cost of installation should be borne by the offender and/or the vehicle’s owner.
In addition, if someone helps the restricted driver circumvent the interlock device, either by blowing into it for them or by disabling the device, that person should be charged as an accessory and face the same punishment as the driver.
If the driver proceeds to injure or kill someone, they should both face vehicular assault or homicide charges.
Another proposed amendment calls for harsher penalties, specifically for DUI drivers driving on the wrong side of the road. This, again, is based on the assumption that the impaired driver is capable of making a rational decision. Obviously Michael Robertson was not capable of rational thought, and the threat of punishment didn’t come into play when he made his U-turn on Highway 520.
I support the proposal that makes drunken driving a felony on the third conviction rather than on the fifth, but there should be no time limit for including past offenses, as there currently is. If someone has three DUIs in his or her lifetime, that person is done driving, forever.
I encourage all Seattle Times readers to contact their state representatives as soon as possible. Call 1-800-562-6000 to make them hear your voice on House Bill 1482. The clock is ticking and this legislative session ends very shortly.
Earline Carlone, Edmonds
March 18, 2013 at 4:00 PM
Paanen hire is a mistake
This is a tragic Washington State Department of Transportation and Gov. Jay Inslee mistake. Hiring Ron Paananen to study 520 bridge, which he was in charge of a few years ago before moving to be in charge of the viaduct replacement, is like hiring the fox to guard the hen house [“Ex-DOT administrator tapped to study bridge, tunnel projects,” NW Friday, March 15].
How unfair to the citizen taxpayers and now toll payers and our environment.
–Jean Amick, Seattle
Reasonable deadlines are important, ensure safety
The recently departed secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation should be ashamed of herself. The buck used to stop at the top person responsible for an agency, or a corporation. Instead, on her way out the door, she took the time to blame the hardworking bridge engineers working on the 520 pontoon project.
Some are saying that a number of the engineers she blamed refused to sign off on the design plans and that they were not allowed adequate time to complete them. However, it appears she has succeeded in making them the scapegoats.
Why didn’t the legislators understand good engineering plans need reasonable dates for completion? Obviously, she was unable to fulfill her responsibility to explain to the legislators — if they want WSDOT to adopt a “Rush the Date” philosophy then the old axiom “haste makes waste” will manifest.
The whole affair is a shame — here’s hoping the next secretary will take more care in educating those legislators (who are not engineers) that reasonable project timelines are important, and rush dates are not only not safe, but very costly.
–Debbie Romaine, Roy
March 2, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Privatized construction might have prevented this
If there was ever a good example of why more state government work should be outsourced and privatized, it’s the millions of dollars the state will cost us for having done their own defective engineering in the design of the 520 bridge [“State admits costly mistakes on 520 bridge,” page one, Feb. 27].
In the private sector of the construction industry, if you make a mistake, you assume the consequences and pay for it. This causes private-sector contractors to be very careful in making their proposals and could have avoided this taxpayer bailout of governmental error.
–Bob Dorse, Seattle
March 1, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Tolls affect the region
I live on Mercer Island and oppose the proposed tolls [“I-90 tolls: Islanders incensed,” page one, Jan. 31]. People have written letters to the editor calling the objections of Mercer Islanders a collective tantrum of a bunch of spoiled brats (my summary). Aside from the fact that stereotypes are rarely accurate, the tolls would impact the economy in the whole area, not solely that of Mercer Island.
Those who commute from or to Seattle will be affected. Those who work on Mercer Island but do not live here will be affected. This includes hundreds of teachers and other employees.
Mercer Islanders take our commerce off the island. For example, we shop for groceries, get our cars serviced, take kids to activities and work off the island. That is an economic issue for this area. Mercer Islanders will be deterred from taking their business off the Island.
Now look at the tolling plan as a whole. I-90 runs across the state. The state needs funds to pay for their gaffs in the rebuilding of the 520 bridge. Is it fair to toll only the Puget Sound Region, one tiny part of a state? No. Is it beneficial to have free access between Seattle and the Eastside? Of course!
–Barbara Winkelman, Mercer Island
February 28, 2013 at 4:00 PM
Bad use of taxpayer money
Well it would have been a good morning if the public wasn’t being informed about another screwup by the state [“State admits costly mistakes on 520 bridge,” page one, Feb. 27].
When are the citizens of this state going to demand state employees — not the great workers, but those responsible for large contracts — have the knowledge required to do the job?
What does the state mean when it says those in charge of the 520 bridge project will be reprimanded? When will the state have the guts to actually fire those who could potentially cost us taxpayers up to millions of additional tax dollars.
The citizens of this state had better wake up and start electing politicians who will see to it that us taxpayers are receiving good value for our tax money. We are getting nothing for our hard-earned money when it is going to pay for a state official screwing up to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars!
We are now hearing that our new governor wants to raise the fuel tax, which is already one of the highest in the country.
Please call your representative in Olympia today and tell him we won’t put us with this anymore and that if he doesn’t stand up in Olympia for us, we will not vote for him in the next election.
–Dennis Haven, Port Hadlock
April 6, 2009 at 5:00 PM
Costly tunnel mandate
Writing about the Highway 520 bridge, Mike Lindblom quotes House Speaker Frank Chopp saying, “All the community groups on the west side are unified behind Option K” ["Debate, delays likely on new 520 bill," page one, April 2]. Untrue; the University District, Ravenna-Bryant and others are vehemently opposed and are joined by several east-side mayors.
While some Montlake extremists have been trying to redirect traffic from Montlake to anywhere but Montlake, even some Montlakers agree that there is a limit to how much can be shifted and at what cost.
The concrete monstrosity in Union Bay initially proposed has morphed into a dangerous, curved tunnel under the Montlake Cut. It will entail freezing the surrounding bore for many months each of several years, thus threatening fish passing in and out of Lake Washington.
If only environmental destruction were at issue, things would be really bad. But to make things even worse, the additional cost of building this tunnel (the “K” option) is estimated to be $2 billion more with usual cost overruns.
The Legislature apparently intends to mandate the tunnel, whatever the additional cost. This is legislators’ self-importance trumping their sanity.
– Earl J. Bell, Seattle
March 27, 2009 at 1:54 PM
Seattle businesses will be hurt
Who among us “average” people is going to spend an additional $5 to $10 for the “privilege” of a trip into downtown Seattle to shop or dine, only to be hit with a $10-plus parking charge, and a fee on entertainment and dining as well? ["Chopp is starting to like tunnels," page one, March 26.]
The added cost of a toll from the Eastside to downtown is really going to hurt Seattle businesses that rely on Eastsiders coming in, especially on weekends for entertainment, dining or shopping.
To try and minimize the adverse impacts of the toll, I suggest that the state, which is considering a toll on both bridges, consider a plan that excludes tolling on Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays.
Those who must commute via the bridges for workweek business will do so, that is a given. But to toll those who have a discretionary decision to go to the Eastside or Seattle will give serious pause to going into the city, especially as the Eastside grows its entertainment and dining options.
And think about the added cost of a Mariners game! Eighty-two home games times $7 round-trip toll. That is an additional $572 dollars on the top of your $500-$1,000 Mariners Package!
I know the city and state are hurting and looking for funding options, but what good is a new bridge to a city without any businesses? The toll is a discretionary-fun killer for the city and its sports teams.
– Art Francis, Issaquah
March 2, 2009 at 5:02 PM
The Seattle Times
Dreaming up a Highway 520 bridge nightmare
As a person born, raised and still living in Queen Anne, I am very familiar with both the corridor infrastructure and the tendencies of those who use it. With Mercer Street, Highway 520, and the tunnel to replace the viaduct on the launchpad, it is imperative we realize the interaction of these three pieces of infrastructure are keys to the most important transportation hub in the state.
This interaction must be scrutinized thoroughly. The following is one of many possible nightmare scenarios I hope are not being overlooked in our zeal to get things done. This scenario should not be viewed as a single, lone case. Rather, it should be seen as an example of what could arise as a result of the new proposed infrastructure.
Today, Southcenter during I-5 congestion, is an exit point for northbound traffic. Many vehicles heading to the waterfront, downtown, Highway 99, Aurora, Queen Anne, Fremont, Magnolia, Interbay, Ballard, Greenwood, and other destinations in the north exit I-5 at Southcenter and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, heading north to their final destinations.
If all three pieces of infrastructure are built as proposed, the new, smaller tunnel to replace the viaduct will back up worse than it currently does. Drivers will choose not to exit at Southcenter and, instead, continue down I-5.
This will increase traffic near the city. Vehicles will intend to exit at Mercer Street, which, because of the rebuild, will have been downsized to three lanes. The left-hand exit lane of I-5 North will quickly back up, creating stalls, which already occurs today.
Vehicles that started at Southcenter, rather than joining this long-waiting line at the revised Mercer Street exit, may choose to bypass this less vehicle-friendly exit and continue to the next logical one, the Lakeview (Roanoke) exit.
This would be a disaster.
The problem is these vehicles that were on the far left of I-5 have to do a very quick, multiple-lane change over to the far right of I-5 in order exit at Lakeview. This is the cusp of the Highway 522 entrance. Crisscrossing I-5 within a short distance is extremely dangerous.
It will also cause untold congestion and chaos as it interferers with thru-traffic. And, once the new arrivals see Lakeview is backed up and clogged, they will likely bypass Lakeview and continue on I-5 to the next exit, Lake Washington Boulevard/Montlake. But exiting here requires merging onto 520. This means, regardless of traffic, vehicles will have no choice to exit here or else they will be forced to cross the 520 bridge.
In other words, building new transportation infrastructure will turn 520 into a congestion nightmare. Can this happen? The steps follow a logical pattern.
It is imperative the state evaluate the interaction of the three-planned infrastructure revisions before any one is launched. It is very possible all three simply can’t be done. It is possible two cannot be done. Or even one cannot be done.
Before we pound the first nail, we need to know.
– Ted Nelson, Seattle
February 19, 2009 at 4:38 PM
Can’t dabble with human nature
The Build 520 Commission Report is flawed because it is not anchored in traditional, long-term transportation and population-growth forecasting. To the contrary, it is based on a snapshot of conditions today.
At best, it is a longshot gamble that conditions will remain the same. And, a longshot gamble that the studies producing today’s results will produce identical results tomorrow.
You just can’t justify bridge construction based on this report. The report is totally flawed.
Traditional, “need” transportation forecasting should be at the center of any long-term bridge decision. Build the bridge to fit the projected needs of the corridor. And, build a bridge that can handle those needs over the projected life of the bridge.
The state has no business changing the nature of transportation or dabbling with human nature. Yet, this is exactly what this report sets out to do.
Go back to “normal.” Forget the pie-in-the-sky stuff. Find a way to do the bridge right, regardless of cost. The Build 520 plan puts far too many square pegs into round holes. Plus, the study itself is fundamentally and irretrievably, flawed.
Also, forget the viaduct tunnel for the same reason. Do the forecasting first, then design a viaduct that fits the needs of the corridor for the life of the viaduct. Forget the little tunnel that gives downtown business their long-sought-after view. Do the tunnel in a normal and standard way with long proven fundamental principals at work and on display. There is nothing wrong with normal.
– Ted Nelson, Queen Anne
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