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Microsoft Government The Almighty Buck News

"Bridge To Microsoft" Gets Federal Stimulus Funds 343

theodp writes "Among the first to benefit from the investment in roads and bridges from Obama's stimulus plan is Microsoft, which has $20B in the bank. Local planners have allotted $11M to help pay for a highway overpass to connect one part of Microsoft's wooded campus with another. Microsoft will contribute almost half of the $36.5M cost; other federal and local money will pay the rest. 'Steve Ballmer or Bill Gates could finance this out of pocket change,' griped Steve Ellis of the Taxpayers for Common Sense. 'Subsidizing an overpass to one of the richest companies in the country certainly isn't going to be the best use of our precious dollars.' Ellis called the project 'a bridge to Microsoft,' alluding to Alaska's infamous 'Bridge to Nowhere.'" A White House spokesman said this bridge project is still under review.
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"Bridge To Microsoft" Gets Federal Stimulus Funds

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  • by Desert_Scarecrow ( 998677 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @04:26PM (#27202335)
    You obviously don't live in the area or drive on the 40th street overpass. I do. I don't work for Microsoft, and I would use that road several times per month just in the course of travelling to various entertainment venues. What we have here is a non-story about a project that is useful, estimated to cost between 15-36M, and which Microsoft has already dropped $11M on. Show me how many Seattle businesses are willing to put extra cash of their own (in addition to tax base they already supply) on the line to dig their fancy tunnel. Oh yeah, the only people in Seattle that regularly write checks for public works are retired Microsoft employees...weird.
  • by Jbain ( 1453725 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @04:48PM (#27202519)
    ... and let me tell you, this will help more than just MS. The freeways and roads in the area are actually surprisingly limited. During rush hour you can expect 3mi+ backups just to get off the freeway. The current on-ramps and overpasses for 520(which is the freeway i'm assuming this will go over) are also pretty limited. Just getting from one side to the other is a pain in the butt, and a lot of that traffic is just MS workers or their shuttles going between buildings. If all of the inter-MS traffic can be re-routed somewhere else, it frees up the roads for the thousands of residents and other workers in the area.
  • Re:so? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Achromatic1978 ( 916097 ) <robert@c[ ] ['hro' in gap]> on Sunday March 15, 2009 @04:55PM (#27202583)
    Microsoft actually does extremely well with their shuttling situation. For large, common routes, they use large buses. For smaller routes they use "commuter" buses, running on a regular schedule.

    For on-demand shuttle usage, you go to any building reception, request a shuttle. They have an integrated dispatch network which will aggregate trips, so along comes a Prius (they only use the Prius), picks you up, makes as many pickups as possible in a beeline between you and your destination, attempting to fill the car where possible, and then drops you off in the optimal fashion. In this sense, it's pretty hard to fault Microsoft (who also offer all employees free public transport passes, paid for by the company).

  • Eyewitness report (Score:2, Informative)

    by evilsofa ( 947078 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @04:56PM (#27202597)
    I live a block down the road from the Microsoft Redmond campus (it used to be 12 blocks, but they metatasized), so I walk by all this each day. But I don't work at Microsoft, so all I have is just sidewalk testimony.

    The older Microsoft campus was confined to the east side of highway 520, with dozens and dozens of properties rented and scattered all over Redmond, Bellevue, and other places in the area. Lately they have been building an absolutely HUGE property just across the highway from the old campus, where they will consolidate all that rented office space.

    Only 7 new buildings? When I walk by there, I can see at least 14 or 17 structures going up, but I can't tell what will be in them. Some of them are titled buildings number 97, 98, 99, and by that they mean Microsoft Redmond campus literally has that many buildings. The city of Redmond has a height limit on its buildings. I don't know the exact rules, but no skyscrapers. The Microsoft buildings are all about 4 or 5 very tall stories, so they are forced to sprawl rather than go up. When they dug the hole for it all, it seemed to be about 6-12 blocks on a side. Huge, huge hole for that 4600 car parking garage. Then they put up more of those big construction cranes than I've ever seen in such a small space - at one point they had 9 or 10 of them.

    With that huge parking garage right next to the highway, they should have just let Microsoft have highway entrances directly out onto 520 and keep all that traffic off the local streets. That would make perfect sense to me. But it exits out onto NE 40th Street, which is a relatively small cross-street, which has relatively small entrance and exits to 520.

    There is already a bridge across 520 between the Microsoft campuses - the NE 40th overpass and intersection with 520. Also, Microsoft has a huge fleet of hundreds of shuttle buses and cars that transfer people from point to point in the Microsoft sprawl. My reaction as a local to the idea of a car and pedestrian bridge for Microsoft is that, while it would be beneficial to the locals to keep some of the terrible Microsoft drivers off the local streets (a lot of them are from India!), Microsoft should foot the entire bill.
  • Re:This is nuts (Score:3, Informative)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @04:57PM (#27202611)

    Ok, mod me down but this guy that you people put in charge is a socialist nut case...

    Socialism. It's probably one of the most confusing and misunderstood terms in the US. Partly this is because it is a political movement separate from it being an economic method. Party this is because there was a huge propaganda campaign in the US to spread fear about it as part of a campaign against Asia in the cold war.

    Listen to me carefully. Every president ever has been a socialist. Every economist is a socialist to a fair degree or they are insane. Socialism has always been part of our economic system and trying to eliminate it entirely would destroy the economy. Every stable economy in the world is a balance of socialism and capitalism (and communism, but there's no need to get into that right now).

    The highway department, post office, military, police, fire department, public schools, NASA, and the FDA are all socialist programs. Socialist programs were established as part of our government from day one. Obama is working to increase the level of socialism in the US. That makes him moderately informed about economics and is pretty much what every reputable economist says is required to reduce the volatility of our stock market and return wealth disparity to sane levels. He's advocating policies that have worked in numerous other countries. Sure it is socialism, but you have to understand socialism is nothing new and not some bogey monster. If we're going to get our economy back on track, socialism coupled with more progressive taxation on the high end is pretty close to the only viable route. You can't lower taxes for people who aren't paying any now. They can't gain wealth starting from their current state. (Try playing monopoly where you start out with $5 and the other guy starts with $50000, but is willing to loan you enough to get started, provided he gets 2/3 of any profit you make. Sure, you could win, but it isn't likely and if you play every day, you will lose overall.)

    So, do you have a sane counter proposal or are you just a extreme capitalist nut case with no real understanding of the problem?

  • Re:so? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mia'cova ( 691309 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @06:42PM (#27203741)

    The headlines are deliberately confusing what happened here. MS offered to pay 70% up front when this was being planned in 2006. The rest was covered by the city of redmond, no federal funds. Redmond city planners have applied for some federal money to cover the increased price of more recent estimates for this project. It also hasn't yet been approved afaik. If microsoft was petitioning for federal money in place of what they've offered, that would be a completely different story.

  • Re:so? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Quothz ( 683368 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @07:23PM (#27204117) Journal

    I am not living anywhere near there, so I would curious to know how much of this traffic is made up of single person vehicles and how much is made up by multi-passenger vehicles like buses.

    What Achromatic said: many MS employees (and permanent/semi-permanent contractors) use company shuttles once on campus. A few bicycle around, or walk if it isn't too far; the campus is beautiful. However, thousands upon thousands of non-MS employees go there every day, for conferences, contract work, pizza delivery, and so forth. The MS campus is huge and made up of a tangled mess of twisty little roads, all alike.

    Traffic during the rush hours is horrific; it isn't so bad the rest of the time, but driving around the place is slow and frustrating if you aren't intimately familiar with it. As someone who used to have to drive down to Redmond occasionally during a stint with Accenture, I can totally see a cross-campus bridge being useful for non-employees (even aside from Achromatic's note about it reducing Redmond-proper's traffic).

    So this isn't just a benefit for MS, although they will gain productivity from faster intracampus travel. I think it's a good project for Redmond as a whole.

    Seattle's roads are not nearly as rough as folks're making out here, but some areas do need work. The Emerald City is tackling this partly by discouraging single-passenger cars, by limiting parking spaces and driving lanes, jacking up taxes on personal vehicles, and flinging money at public transportation.

    The electric-type grid is prolly the most urgent public works issue there. Fortunately, an upgrade was already in the works, and part of the stimulus package will go toward that.

    Overall, with MS chipping in half of the costs, I think this is one of the better deals we're getting for our tax dollars.

  • by LackThereof ( 916566 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @11:18PM (#27206195)

    Roads of this nature are usually private.

    The microsoft campus is not some freeform corporate campus. The land was all bought up and developed piecemeal as the company grew. Most of the buildings are seperated by (small, old) public roads. Both of the roads that will be connected in this case (36th and 31st, to be connected on a diagonal because of a bend in the freeway) are old, public roads, which currently end in a T at the freeway. Through traffic from 148th to 156th will probably use it heavily, although it provides extra good Microsoft access (just 1 block east of the main arterial, 31st becomes Microsoft Way.)
        I delivered pizza in Redmond, Wa. I grew up there. I knew all of this from my time there, but you could have easily figured it out from reading the article and looking at a map.

  • Re:so? (Score:3, Informative)

    by bmajik ( 96670 ) <> on Monday March 16, 2009 @11:07AM (#27210435) Homepage Journal

    As a resident of North Dakota who favors leaving the union (and ideally forming a new entity with a recently-freed Montana), I'd be just fine not accepting any more federal money if it also meant not dealing with federal law, Californians, and the entire Boston->DC corridor. :)

    As far as why federal money might be flowing into ND, consider:

    ND has less than 1/3rd of 1 percent of the US population, but

    ND is responsible for between 15 and 20% of US wheat production
    ND is responsible for a significant portion of the US nuclear deterrant capability [I couldn't say how much, but I'd guess a double-digit percentage]
    ND has the largest wind-energy capacity of any state in the US. We have the capacity to provide 25% of the US domestic electricity supply from wind power alone.

    [insert Borat's National Anthem of Kazakhstan here]

    PS: I'm a former Redmond resident. MSFT pumps a ridiculous amount of money into that economy. I can tell you there's no way in hell I'd have been paying $200k [and the associated property taxes] for a 1300 sq ft 1955 rambler without Microsoft employees having saturated the housing market in every direction for 30 minutes. The revenue source data for King County and Redmond is available online. People employed "in the softwware industry" inject something like 95% of the money into the economy, iirc.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger