EDITORIAL | Traffic meltdown: An omen of the future?

Drivers are still fuming over the traffic standstill June 10 that left many people stuck on the roads for hours.

An accident on state Route 99 caused the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to close the highway from the Battery Street tunnel to past the West Seattle bridge. Throw in traffic for that night’s Mariners game and the typical afternoon gridlock and there were all the ingredients for a traffic disaster.

SPD said the nature of the accident — with severe injuries — forced them to close the road for nearly six hours to do a full investigation. Many questioned why SPD closed the entire road, instead of just cutting it off before the accident scene. SPD said it was the easiest way to shut down traffic, a SPD spokesperson told the West Seattle Blog.

At 6:30 p.m., nearly five hours after the accident, traffic was still backed up past the Aurora Bridge on Aurora Avenue North, according to The Seattle Times.

This sort of total-traffic-meltdown seems to be common here lately. Last month, a steel plate popped up on southbound Interstate 5 by SoDo, and morning traffic was at a standstill. And other recent accidents have caused major backups throughout the city.

The decision to close SR 99 was SPD’s. But the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and, more importantly, the commuters, were the ones who had to deal with the mess.

This is what happens when we do not pay for or invest in infrastructure. Call us a broken record, but our city is at the precipice of a transit meltdown — we’re already the No. 4 worst city for driving. We need to invest in traffic solutions.

We also need to invest in Metro Transit solutions, because the 30,000 additional cars expected if and when Metro makes its cuts will only make things worse. King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an executive order last week calling for Metro and Sound Transit to work together for a more integrated and efficient transit system; this sounds like a step in the right direction.

Accidents and road problems are inevitable. So it’s important city departments like SDOT and SPD work together and have backup plans ready, so people aren’t sitting in traffic for hours at a time.

In all that madness, there was a little bit of good. Someone handed out Dick’s hamburgers to people stuck in traffic. Dick’s posted on its Facebook page that it’d like to take credit, but it was a “mystery burger hero.” At least there’s that.