Tacoma News Tribune: Inside The Editorial Page blog
December 18, 2007
Original blog post
The portents abound: Regional Transportation Governance is barreling down on us Pierce County folks whether we like it or not.
The latest: During her visit with the TNT ed board today, Gov. Chris Gregoire declared, "It's time we had a heavy-duty conversation about governance" in the wake of Proposition 1's drubbing at the polls.
The governor said she was prepared to introduce her own RTG legislation for the 2008 session, but she agreed to let state Sens. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, and Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, take the lead in crafting a proposal.
Gregoire reminded us that a blue-ribbon panel led by former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice and businessman John Stanton in 2006 had recommended putting regional road and transit authority in the hands of one body consisting mostly of directly elected members.
RTG means no more Sound Transit, no more Regional Transportation Improvement District - bodies comprised of elected city and county officials from Pierce, King and Snohomish counties.
And the notion of "sub-area equity," Gregoire said emphatically, has got to go. That gave us a little shudder, because the principle that the money raised in each county should be spent each county is pretty much Holy Writ in Pierce and Snohomish counties.
The problem with sub-area equity, Gregoire contended, is that local goodies get piled atop the most serious regional priorities, for reasons of local politics, that the total cost of any package balloons and it topples of its own weight.
A pretty good description, I admit, of what happened with Proposition 1 on both the transit and road sides. But, as I told the governor, "we little people in the sticks" have a legitimate fear of getting little more than table scraps while the Seattle-centric mega-projects get taken care first.
Another RTG portent: This article from the online news site Crosscut. Commentator Ted Van Dyke lauds the gathering momentum for RTG. The vision:
In all of this, a new consensus is emerging about a post-Prop 1 agenda. It centers on moving aside turf-oriented, self-serving agencies such as Sound Transit and transferring power to a more objective, more responsive regional body. It would stress immediate priorities such as addressing the urgent Alaskan Way Viaduct and Evergreen Point Bridge, which are aging and structurally vulnerable.
It would not stop light rail construction in place, but it would limit construction to a line running from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to either Convention Place, Husky Stadium, or Northgate. Future funding would be focused more greatly on express bus, bus rapid transit, and normal bus service; dedicated transit lanes; HOV lanes; tolling; and selective repair and expansion of long neglected local roads and lifeline highways. Citywide trolleys (touted by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels) definitely would not be part of the scheme.
I've already predicted that the future of light rail in this region, post-Prop.1, will lie entirely within King County. Heck, except for the line to the airport, it may lie entirely with the City of Seattle. Tacoma's short LINK light-rail line could remain an curious anomaly for another half-century - or longer.
Local officialdom, including Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, his counterparts in King and Pierce Counties,and transit supporters could still put up a formidable fight against RTG in Olympia.
But Proposition 1's ignominious defeat means the prevailing winds now favor creating regional authority governing both roads and transit.
And the local-government electeds might come around. After all, that regional transportation authority would probably mean the creation of a whole new slate of highly visible, well-paying elective offices that would be mighty tempting for the likes of, say, the capable Mr. Ladenburg.