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.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Seattle PI critique of Rossi plan

Rossi plan moves light rail funds to car pool lanes

Candidate projects extra cash from Sound Transit

Besides resurrecting proposals for a Seattle tunnel and an eight-lane Evergreen Point Bridge, GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi's transportation plan contains another controversial idea: getting Sound Transit to build more car pool lanes with cash it might otherwise spend extending light rail to the Eastside.

This element, part of the plan Rossi unveiled this week, estimates that Sound Transit will collect enough unplanned tax revenue in the next 30 years in its Eastside district to produce $690 million for HOV projects on Interstate 405 and state Route 520.

Sound Transit's extra cash would "be used for what it was intended -- to finance transit-related infrastructure on the Eastside," Rossi's plan says. In an interview Friday, Rossi said Sound Transit has "many buses, so we should have a place for them."

The agency's Eastside area extends from the North King County limits south to Renton, east of Lake Washington.

Sound Transit officials called Rossi's idea another move to build more road lanes and said the money could otherwise help extend rail service.

But Rossi is not proposing that money be spent on car pool lanes at the expense of more light rail, he said. With or without that money, "it's going to take a lot more" than that amount to extend light rail across Lake Washington.

"If they can move more people (with light rail) than you can in a general-purpose (highway) lane, I'm all on board," Rossi said. "The numbers have to prove it out."

He said his plan attempts to find other transportation funding sources, since gas taxes are expected to decline because of increasing car fuel efficiency and more transit use.

Rossi favors giving commuters options, including rail, but, "if it's necessary for them to drive a car, there's going to be a need to do this, too."

Sound Transit wouldn't confirm the surplus tax revenue projections in Rossi's plan. The agency confirms that tax collections from the Eastside are higher than forecast and predicts an unspent balance of $560 million in Eastside-area tax collections left over from the first phase of light rail, to be completed in 2016.

Since Sound Transit's first phase started in the late 1990s, Eastside tax collections are about $100 million more than expected, according to agency spokesman Geoff Patrick, who said the additional money must be spent as dictated by an as-yet incomplete plan that must be approved by voters, or to reduce Sound Transit's tax levy.

Rossi's plan doesn't specify HOV projects, but campaign spokeswoman Jill Strait said they include two HOV connections in Renton: one to I-405 at North Eighth Street and another between HOV lanes on I-405 and on state Route 167, the Valley Freeway.

Pro-bus organizations such as the Coalition for Effective Transportation and the Eastside Transportation Association support the plan, but officials of those groups said they didn't propose the idea to Rossi.

"The general idea of spending Sound Transit's transit money on cross-lake infrastructure (for) making buses work better across the lake is a good one," said John Niles, the coalition's technical chairman.

Rossi's proposal, however, hasn't gone over well with Sound Transit board members.

The chairman, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, said through a spokesman that he doesn't support Rossi's idea. "That money is going to be very useful for expanding transit service on the Eastside, light rail and bus service," Marty McOmber said.

McOmber said spending the greater-than-expected tax receipts on particular projects would require a public vote.

Seattle City Councilman and Sound Transit board member Richard Conlin said Rossi's plan appears to focus on building highway lanes, which is the state's responsibility.

"What we're looking for is to try and get some really good transit options on the Eastside," Conlin said, including light rail on Interstate 90 and high-frequency bus service on the Evergreen Point Bridge.

Kirkland City Councilwoman and Sound Transit board member Mary-Alyce Burleigh said that if the extra money is committed to HOV projects, it "would be very difficult" to complete light rail and other transit improvements on the Eastside. Rossi's proposal is "a whole departure from what has been the plan from the get-go," she said.

Rossi said that if he is elected, he'll try to persuade Sound Transit board members to adopt his idea. The text of his plan said it "will dedicate" half of the extra tax collections to HOV projects but he said in the interview that he'll change that language to indicate he'll ask for the change.

Responding to board members, Rossi countered that Sound Transit already has helped finance HOV ramps that connect HOV lanes to park and ride lots.

"They know it helps their buses," he said of Sound Transit.

P-I reporter Larry Lange can be reached at 206-448-8313

The articles are posted solely for educational purposes to raise awareness of transportation issues. I claim no authorship, nor do I profit from this website. Where known, all original authors and/or source publisher have been noted in the post. As this is a knowledge base, rather than a blog, I have reproduced the articles in full to allow for complete reader understanding and allow for comprehensive text searching...see custom google search engine at the top of the page. If you have concerns about the inclusion of a specific article, please email for a speedy resolution.