March 8th, 2006

more traffic woes

Recently I wrote about the lousy traffic on Route 520, my primary route to work. As I noted in that post, there are plans to replace the floating bridge across Lake Washington - or, rather, they are currently in the planning stage of the project, which involves settling on a building plan. It doesn't say on those pages, but I read an article in a local paper which said it's expected to take six years to build the replacement, and the current schedule doesn't anticipate advertising for construction bids before 2009.

The thing is, the bridge may not last even that long. The bridge was closed again today at 5:10 pm after workers discovered today's high winds had damaged the bridge yet again. It's not in immediate danger of sinking, but it wasn't safe to keep it open even though the evening commute had just got under way. They're working to fix it and reopen in time for tomorrow morning's commute; if they're not done, the commute will be a big mess.

It was certainly a mess tonight. I was fortunate enough to learn about the bridge closure before I left work, so I wasn't stuck on 520; however, I was unfortunate enough to miss the haircut appointment I had at 7 pm because of all the extra traffic going around the lake like I did. On a normal day I can get around the north side of the lake in 45 minutes, but today that time was doubled. It didn't help that something was going on at Key Arena at the Seattle Center (where the Space Needle is, for you out-of-towners), which meant there was going to be heavy traffic headed generally into downtown anyhow.

All of this has much to do with my reluctance to start going in to work earlier. With no traffic, the commute takes 25 minutes to travel 15 miles (about 12 is highway). Currently I'm still leaving for work between 9:30 and 10 (trying for 9:30 as much as possible, and I've been much better about it in the past few weeks), and usually staying at work at least until 7, so my travel times are just past the main commuting hours. As it stands, at least a third of the time in the morning and at least half the time in the evening there's still enough traffic to make the trip take 40-45 minutes. Going to work and leaving work earlier can only mean spending even more time crawling in traffic, and I've got better things to do than sit in traffic.

Now, imagine if the 520 bridge is permanently closed. Forty-five minutes from Seattle to Redmond will be considered a fast trip at any time of day. (Looking again at the 520 bridge project page, I see they say the evening commute "would nearly double from an average of 33 minutes to 55 minutes.") Given the current normal traffic delays and the ever-increasing likelihood of bridge closures due to structural damage, it's astonishing and alarming that the current schedule projections indicate there won't be a replacement bridge opening until 2015. All I can say is, if the bridge goes down, I'm working from home more often!

(Looking at the mood list again: how can they not have "alarmed" and "dismayed" in the list? They have "exanimate" and "recumbent" (RECUMBENT? how the hell is recumbent a mood?!) but not "dismayed"?!?)