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Former WSDOT secretary warns of I-5’s future

(AP file photo)
LISTEN: The problems with I-5 through Seattle

What will I-5 through Seattle look like in 10 years?

It’s a question that would keep former Washington State Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald awake at night if he was still on the job.

MacDonald told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross that I-5 can’t look like it does today and can’t be fixed in a reasonable time or with the money that people think is going to be available. He said it’s a classic example of improving on something that you already have.

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Besides fixing flow under the Washington State Convention Center and improving the functionality of on- and off-ramps, MacDonald said the biggest question is how to address the people using I-5 to move around Seattle. The interstate was never intended for that purpose, he said.

“Next year, in 2018, there are going to be all kinds of changes in downtown as the Metro Transit buses come out of the downtown tunnel and further clog the downtown streets,” he said.

On top of that, the Highway 99 tunnel is expected to open. MacDonald said it’s a mistake to think people will pay the toll when they can avoid it — thereby clogging downtown traffic.

“All those things are coming together, but at the center is I-5,” MacDonald said. “It’s a regional problem. It’s not just an SDOT problem; it’s not just a WSDOT problem. It’s a regional problem that people have to sit down and get some creative solutions for and that, today, isn’t happening.”

The former WSDOT secretary predicted some potential solutions. That included more use of transit on I-5, charging people for using the freeway, and resolving issues around freight.

“It’s the biggest chokehold we have on the system right now,” MacDonald said. “A lot of other things are going to have to follow behind that issue.”

Check out Chokepoints for more traffic issues.

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