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Sunday, March 23, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Letters To The Editor

Highway 520 Congestion -- Solution To Traffic Jams Requires Big- Picture Analysis And Light Rail On I-90

Editor, The Times:

Your article "520 bridge: going nowhere fast," (March 16) missed the mark in three important ways.

First, it contained no big-picture analysis of traffic flow. It makes no sense to look at one section of freeway at time. Doubling Highway 520 capacity will do no good because Interstate 5, Interstate 405 and many major thoroughfares are "maxed out" and cannot be expanded. Increased 520 traffic will back up where it tries to enter I-5 and I-405.

Second, it is not more lanes on 520 that we need but more total east-west and Eastside transportation capacity. The best way to add capacity is to build a rail line across I-90 , where the roadbed was specifically designed for conversion to rail, and to continue it on to Bellevue and Redmond (later to Issaquah, Renton and Alderwood Mall).

Each new lane of freeway will carry only 2,000 cars per hour and will fill up quickly. However, rail can carry 24,000 people per hour in each direction, the equivalent of a 24-lane freeway. Trains can interconnect urban centers and foster economic development without increased car traffic. Freeway expansion will simply perpetuate the problem.

To use an Internet analogy, a freeway lane is a low-capacity copper telephone line, while rail is a fiber optic line with enormous carrying capacity.

For those who must drive their cars on Highway 520, the only hope is to give other drivers a transit alternative.

Third, you took no look at what other cities have done to deal with gridlock. Does Seattle think its problems are unique? Send your reporters out to study solutions around the world. Give us a broader perspective. James Robert Deal Edmonds

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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