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Seattle-area buses may drive on freeway shoulders

traffic commute transportation car
Flickr Photo/JBLM (CC-BY-NC-ND)
Traffic near Seattle

Light rail planners aren't wasting any time after voters approved the transportation package known as Sound Transit 3.

The full project list will take up to 25 years to complete. Residents in Ballard and Everett will get light rail service in about 20 years. It's a shorter timeline to West Seattle and Tacoma — about 15 years.

But people will see some transit changes much sooner. Sound Transit planners are meeting this month to draw up plans for some of the earlier projects, like Federal Way and downtown Redmond.

Sooner than all the light rail projects are built, buses to some of those destinations are going to speed up. Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said they want to have buses drive on the freeway shoulders.

Rogoff: "We've got buses that are moving at painfully slow rates in the HOV lane. If we could even for just part of that journey, facilitate them operating safely on the shoulder, we can have a real impact soon."

He says buses could be driving on the freeway shoulder within three to five years, depending on conversations with highway authorities. Rogoff said they're not exactly sure how it will work, but that they want to focus on buses that travel Interstate 5, Interstate 405, and state Routes 167 and 518.

Sound Transit would have bus stops built within the freeway right-of-way at certain places, like Northeast 85th Street in Kirkland and Northeast 44th Street in Renton.

But even before the bus changes are made, the first thing taxpayers will see is an increase in property taxes and car tab fees in January and higher sales taxes by April.