The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Monday, March 10, 2008

RTID Board approves skinned down package for Prop 1

RTID Moves Forward

Posted by Erica C. Barnett on May 31 at 15:26 PM

The executive board of the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) approved the joint RTID/Sound Transit package this afternoon sans the dreaded Cross Base Highway, a proposed new four-lane, $477 million highway in Pierce County that would have cut through Fort Lewis and the McChord Air Force Base—and destroyed the last remaining oak-woodland prairie in western Washington. Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, a Cross Base supporter, vowed to veto the entire proposal when it comes to Pierce County if it didn’t include the highway; Cross Base supporters and opponents each claim they have the votes to override the executive’s veto (all three counties have to approve the joint measure to put it on the ballot in all three counties). If Ladenburg does veto the joint ballot measure, and if the county council fails to overturn the veto, the ballot measure could still move forward in King and Snohomish Counties, but that’s hardly an ideal scenario.

Today’s lengthy meeting was a mix of praise (from environmentalists), criticism (from Pierce County officials and commuters) and mutual back-patting (from the board). “The package you’re looking at today is something we think we can advocate for,” said Rob Johnson, political director for the pro-transit Transportation Choices Coalition. “The environmental community is willing and excited to get this package on the ballot this fall.” However, Mary Ann Lincoln of the Spanaway Community Association, who lives in Spanaway and works in Redmond, insisted that Pierce County residents need the Cross Base Highway to commute. “I have spent five hours a day in my car. I have arrived at work angry and frustrated and that’s no way to arrive at work,” Lincoln said. She added that the number of drivers the new highway would serve “is probably a lot more people than the environmental community has in their organizations.”

The joint ballot measure includes $1.1 billion to replace the aging SR-520 bridge across Lake Washington, plus anywhere from $700 million to $1.2 billion in tolls. (Currently, RTID is using the higher number; more on that in a moment.) Additional funding for the $4.4 billion project—up to $1 billion—could come from a $1 billion “pool” of future state and federal money anticipated by the legislature; however, the more of that money pays for the 520 replacement, the less will remain for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the other recipient of funding from the “pool.”

RTID adopted the higher toll revenue estimate, according to a story in yesterday’s P-I, because the agency now predicts that evening peak-hour traffic on the bridge will be 28 percent higher than anticipated. (That’s cars, not people, so that figure doesn’t indicate higher transit use.) However, that increased revenue estimate also assumes that tolls will be around $3 each way—the highest toll level RTID considered. Given that tolls have a diversionary effect—people find other routes, or avoid trips during peak hours—you’d expect that higher tolls would mean fewer bridge users, not more. And if it doesn’t, it’s hard to see what problem building a wider (six-lane versus four-lane) bridge is going to solve—if single-occupant car traffic is just going to go up and up no matter what, what’s the point of building a larger, more expensive bridge?

The proposal now goes to the RTID Planning Committee for final adoption on June 8. From there, it goes to the Snohomish, Pierce and King county councils for placement on the November ballot

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