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Rantz: Metered I-5 makes absolutely no sense for Mercer Mess

Mercer. (Jason Rantz, KTTH)

The Washington State Department of Transportation has decided, inexplicably, to meter I-5 at the Mercer Mess in Seattle. The plan makes absolutely, positively, without a shadow of a doubt no sense whatsoever and will make the Mercer Mess even worse, even though the Seattle Department of Transportation ridiculously claims otherwise.

Telling the US 2 trestle tolling truth

“We’ll let one car go at a time, and as they merge onto the freeway they will have space to merge more safely and more efficiently,” Washington State Department of Transportation Traffic Engineer Morgan Balogh said to KIRO Radio’s Chris Sullivan.

Sullivan reports that WSDOT and SDOT do not believe this will lead to significant backups on Mercer. Huh?

“It backs up now,” Balogh said. “We’re going to let the same number of vehicles go through in the future as we do now, so there shouldn’t be any difference or any additional impacts.”

It already backs up, so, let’s put up meters?

His confident prediction strains credulity. It’s almost like Balogh has never even visited Seattle. And SDOT believes this? I’m afraid we have yet another example of wishful thinking coming from departments with a disinterest in cars. Indeed, I believe the culture of WSDOT and SDOT is anti-car.

The on-ramp to I-5, in either direction, backs up frequently. Routinely, you can’t even turn left on Fairview to get onto the on-ramp because the on-ramp is backed up (that is when the light stays green long enough for more than four cars to drive through). By putting up meters, you’re keeping the traffic at a standstill even longer, making it tougher for cars to get onto the on-ramp from Mercer. I assume there is some benefit to the flow of traffic on I-5 itself, but it will cripple Mercer to an unthinkable degree.

Much of the mess you encounter once on the actual freeway are drivers unwilling to properly merge. No one in this city seems comfortable zipper merging. You’re supposed to drive up the entirety of the lane until you’re essentially forced to merge; you shouldn’t be merging immediately, slowing down to get over, when you have a hundred yards of space in front of you.

If WSDOT wanted a better flow of traffic, they’d do more to force drivers to merge properly — why not have a solid line that tells the driver they have to fill the empty space before they merge into the flow of traffic?

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