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Transportation Washington February 2006 Newsletter

Central Puget Sound One Step Closer to Joint Highway and Transit Plan

When it comes to tackling transportation challenges, we at the Cascadia Center have long advocated regional cooperation. And with its rapidly rising population and worsening congestion, Central Puget Sound is especially in need of a coordinated solution——similar to what has already worked in Vancouver, B.C., Denver, and San Diego.

The possibility of an integrated highway and transit package took one step closer to becoming reality last week for the tri-county region. The Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) presented a transportation proposal to Sound Transit January 26; the hope is that the two groups could come together for a joint ballot measure to put before voters. Legislative changes to the RTID would be necessary. Click here for a January 26 news article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Under the leadership of RTID Chair and Pierce County Councilmember Shawn Bunney, the $7.2 billion plan——scaled back from $14 billion——focuses on congestion relief and safety projects in the region’s major corridors. Click here to download RTID’s letter to the Sound Transit board of directors. Sound Transit is currently developing the plan for Phase II of its capital investments.

The RTID package——which will require a 0.1 of one percent increase in sales taxes and a 0.8 of one percent increase in the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) to fund the projects——will generate approximately $4.5 billion in King County and $2.7 billion in Pierce and Snohomish Counties combined.

A potential ballot, which could go before voters as early as this year, would represent the first time the region will have combined into a single package both highway and transit improvements. Although more work remains, it would be a significant milestone for the region, and Cascadia applauds the efforts of all involved.

State House and Senate Consider Puget Sound Transportation Reform

In January, Washington state lawmakers——specifically, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen and Reps. Ed Murray, Fred Jarrett, and Dave Upthegrove——introduced several bills that could alter the way transportation agencies in Central Puget Sound do business. Among other things, recommendations were made for structured reform to the 2007 Legislature. Click here to download a comparative analysis of the four bills.

On January 18 in Olympia, former Sen. Slade Gorton, Cascadia Senior Fellow Dave Earling, and Seattle attorney Mike Vaska testified on transportation reform before the House and Senate Transportation Committees. Sen. Gorton addressed the need for a single point of accountability for transportation decision making in Puget Sound. He proposed that a new board should comprise directly elected representatives from each county, and include the County Executives.

Earling reviewed three projects that the Cascadia Center has worked on in the last sixteen months. They include: 1) the “Transportation Working Group Report,” which helped develop the framework for the Transportation Partnership Act in 2005; 2) “Regional Transportation: A Civic Conversation Survey,” a survey dealing with a variety of transportation issues in the state and region; and 3) “A Tale of Three Cities,” a monograph by Doug Hurley describing lessons learned from Denver, San Diego, and Vancouver, B.C. in gaining public approval of major regional transportation investment proposals. For the text of Earling’’s testimony, click here.

Building support for regional projects does not have an altogether fruitless past. Mike Vaska shared the insight he gained during his work that led up to the successful 1996 vote establishing the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit).

The panel met with positive reaction from committee members. The following day both committees received a comprehensive presentation on regional governance and transportation funding from Pat Jacobsen, CEO of the Greater Vancouver (B.C.) Transportation Authority, TransLink—’s long-time partner in Cascadia Center cross-border transportation­­ initiatives. Click here to view Jacobsen’’s testimony.

Media Commentary on Regional Transportation

With the RTID advancing a potential $7.2 billion project list and regional reform nearly monopolizing transportation discussions in Olympia, the last couple of weeks have witnessed an increase in editorials on the subject from major newspapers around the region.

You’’ll want to read The Everett Herald’’s January 15 editorial advocating regional transportation. Also be sure to check out this editorial by Thomas Shapley of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, as well as that publication’’s January 30 commentary entitled “Transportation: Finally, a Plan

The Seattle Times’ Jim Vesely wasn’’t without his own thoughts: see his January 29 piece, “Transportation: mega-agency, mega-dollars.” And don’’t forget Bob Wallace’’s op-ed for the King County Journal commenting on the need for a regional consensus: “Lack of transportation solutions a threat to region

Transportation Washington Outreach

As part of Transportation Washington’s campaign to educate the public on mobility issues, our representatives make frequent presentations around the state on all sorts of transportation-related topics.

In the last quarter of 2005, we went to Sea-Tac, Yakima, Tacoma, Bellingham, Seattle, Lynnwood, and Spokane—talking about everything from investment in Interstate 90 as a vital freight and travel corridor to what to do about the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Next stop is Moses Lake, then Vancouver, Washington.

If you have a topic idea for a presentation, or would like to find out how to arrange a stop in your area, we encourage you to contact Dave Earling at dave_earling@yahoo.com or (206) 920-5593.

Cascadia Highlights Transportation Connections for B.C. Olympics

November of 2005 marked the beginning of a six-part Puget Sound Business Journal op-ed series by Cascadia Center on infrastructure inadequacies in the region and the nation. Topics ranged from transportation to broadband to energy. Click here for links to all six articles.

Written by Cascadia’s Bruce Agnew and Jessica Cantelon, the sixth and last op-ed printed on January 27. Titled “B.C. Olympics can be a transportation catalyst,” the article comments on how the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C. is already expediting improvements to transportation infrastructure from Seattle to Whistler, and what more can be done to improve cross-border relations.

“After all, as the inscription over the Peace Arch at the border says, we are ‘children of a common mother.’ And siblings should play together.”

Cascadia’’s Bruce Agnew Speaks on Transportation at King County Council Town Hall Meeting

Cascadia Co-Director Bruce Agnew participated in a five-person transportation panel featured at 2006’’s first Metropolitan King County Council Town Hall meeting on January 30. In addition to Agnew, panel participants included Washington DOT Sec. Doug MacDonald, Sound Transit Chief Communications Officer Ric Ilgenfritz, King County DOT Director Harold Taniguchi, and Seattle DOT Director Grace Crunican.

For a detailed description of the meeting, click here.

Cascadia’’s Tom Till Testifies Before the WA State Transportation Commission on Federal Passenger Rail Funding

Cascadia Co-Director Tom Till——formerly the Executive Director of the Amtrak Reform Council, an independent federal commission——was invited to testify before the Washington State Transportation Commission concerning the source of future funding for the state’s passenger rail service. The principal issue of interest to the Commission was the question of whether Amtrak, moving forward, could serve as an effective funding partner for the state of Washington as it invests in improvements to passenger rail service in the state under the Transportation Partnership Act. To read Till’s statement before the Commission, click here.

Cascadia Center

Founded in 1993, as the Cascadia Project, Discovery Institute’s Cascadia Center for Regional Development is an important force in regional transportation and sustainable development issues. Cascadia is known for its involvement in transportation and development issues in the Cascadia Corridor, Puget Sound and in the U.S.-Canadian cross-border realm. We’ve recently added to that mix through a major program to promote U.S. efforts to reduce reliance on foreign oil, including the earliest possible development and integration of flex-fuel, plug-in, hybrid-electric vehicles.