Think tank: Innovate to fix 520

The state cannot keep the aging, overworked Evergreen Point bridge floating forever, and new options including tolls or tunnels across Lake Washington must be studied to preserve Highway 520. ...Speakers told of selling a highway in Canada to private interests and building a state-of-the-art tunnel at a bargain price in Scandinavia. "Let's start thinking differently about how we approach these things," said Jonathan Huggett, a Vancouver, B.C., expert on financing. Huggett said he's worked on jobs all over the world, often involving public agencies designing projects and then going to construction with the lowest bidder. "This is the most inefficient, worst way to deliver a project," he said. Instead, he suggested going to a design-build approach in which certain parameters are laid out, but then requests for proposals are put out to private developers, and it's left to them to decide how to fix a problem, at a set price. Read More ›

Think tank digs into debate over 520 tunnel

The two-day seminar, "State Route 520: A Corridor in Crisis," is being conducted at the Woodmark Hotel in Kirkland by the Discovery Institute, a public-policy group. The seminar continues today and is open to the public....Although the session was privately sponsored, including funding from the McCaw Foundation, it included public analysis that essentially agreed with the private views. "We haven't built roads, we haven't built transit, we haven't built arterials, and we're surprised when we have a congestion problem?" asked Rob Fellows of the state Department of Transportation, who oversaw the Trans-Lake study. Another aim of the sessions is to try to get the area high-tech industry involved, said Bruce Agnew, Discovery Institute director, partly explaining the McCaw Foundation funding. Traditionally, he said, people with property interests in the Highway 520 corridor have been involved in seeking solutions, but groups with economic interests have been absent, partly because the transportation situation is so confusing. Read More ›

Experts study 520 corridor gridlock

"The 520 corridor is the classic bottleneck in what we call the Cascadia region," Discovery Institute Director Bruce Chapman said at yesterday's kick-off session. "Figuring out what to do with it is crucial to long-term regional planning." The aging 520 pontoon bridge now accommodates about 120,000 vehicles on an average weekday, state transportation figures show, with peak-hour flows now about equal in both directions. But even with growth and increased traffic volumes, peak flow counts haven't changed much in recent years, Fellows said. What has: longer periods of heavy traffic along the state route, as a growing population adjusts work and commute schedules before and after rush-hours, he said. "What we're seeing now is volume growth filling in the off-peak periods, accounting for longer periods of congestion," Fellows said.....While today's forum will examine such long-term solutions as building alternate highways and boring a tunnel beneath the lake, strategies that can be implemented in the short term are just as important. Creating more transit and light rail services, examining passenger ferries runs and improving local "feeder" roads could all have immediate effects, said Preston Schiller, a Cascadia Project consultant. "The table is set for addressing the 520 corridor as part of a long-term plan," added Burce Agnew, Cascadia Project manager. "But the big question we're dealing with is, how do you pay for it and how to get public support." Read More ›

What Does a 21st Century Defense Require?

Americans favor a strong defense. But a nation can be strong in the wrong ways. Since the 1994 election, there has been a growing debate over the condition of the American military. Unfortunately, it is the wrong debate, leading to the wrong conclusion-that America's defense problems can be solved by money alone. In reality, the present defense establishment is an Industrial Age organization struggling to adapt to two new worlds: that of the post-Cold War disorder and that of the microchip. This year, the American people will devote well over a quarter-trillion dollars to this increasingly obsolescent military structure. Because of mistakes during the post-Cold War builddown, some small selective, short-term increases will be necessary. But in the long run, the proper course is not to spend more. The proper course is to spend smarter. This Discovery Inquiry offers a conceptual tool for thinking about such change. Read More ›