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.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Olympia Kills Plan to Give Sound Transit Roads

Sound Transit expansion denied

Lawmakers kill plan to give agency highway development responsibility

Last updated February 21, 2008 10:26 p.m. PT


A measure to enlarge Sound Transit by giving it highway development responsibilities died in the Legislature, failing to get enough support from skeptical lawmakers and others.

Several groups, including environmentalists, local transportation officials and Sound Transit itself questioned the measure, Senate Bill 6772.

"It's dead for the session," said the measure's prime sponsor and Senate Transportation Committee chairwoman, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. Given other concerns over ferries, mountain pass closures and winter floods, "we can't get anybody to focus on it."

Haugen and four other senators introduced the proposal in late January, and Haugen's committee held one hearing on it, but committee members wouldn't send it to the full Senate.

Several unsuccessful attempts have been made at setting up a regional transportation agency, a move recommended in 2000 by a state blue-ribbon commission and in early 2007 by a second commission organized to look at the question.

Advocates of an agency that would plan and coordinate transportation projects say it could unclog the political logjam that has stopped many projects, and help raise local taxes and finance projects, because the state won't do it alone.

Haugen argued that a larger agency could better focus money on the most needed projects, including both roads and transit. A problem with the recently rejected Proposition 1 transportation funding measure was its scope -- spreading money over too many projects to please too many representatives of three counties, she said.

Local officials, who said they can manage transportation projects the way things are organized now, opposed it.

"Local governments think they're doing a wonderful job (and say) just give us more money, we can do it," Haugen said.

Some also said the bill didn't go far enough because it didn't include in a single agency the planning authority now held by the Puget Sound Regional Council, whose director, Bob Drewel, also was skeptical of the idea of a larger agency.

The bill would have reduced Sound Transit's board of directors from 18 members to 12, with seven elected by voters, including six from geographic districts and serving six-year terms. Currently, the agency's board members are local elected officials appointed to the board by county executives.

Sound Transit Executive Director Joni Earl told lawmakers her agency hadn't taken a position on the measure but that changing the board makeup could jeopardize the federal government's commitment to providing grant money to the agency.

Jessyn Farrell, director of the pro-transit Transportation Choices Coalition, said she thinks lawmakers should "leave Sound Transit alone while it's completing Phase 1" of its light rail line.

Haugen said the subject will come up again in next year's session for consideration, because other metropolitan areas have formed regional transpiration agencies to manage projects.

A related measure, Senate Bill 6771 to eliminate regional transportation investment districts such as the one that wrote part of the ill-fated Proposition 1, has been changed to delay further investment district elections until November 2009. The bill narrowly passed the Senate and is now in the House.


Sound Transit Thursday began asking residents in urban areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties what they think should be on another transit ballot measure. Agency officials haven't yet decided whether to attempt another one. They are asking about priorities, how ambitious the new version might be and how soon another measure should be on a ballot. Residents can take the survey through March 9 at or by calling 1-866-511-1398. Voters in November rejected a ballot measure that included $30.8 billion in light rail and other transit projects.

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