Fuse Washington and a host of other progressive groups have endorsed Sherril Huff for King County Elections Director. Although Friends of Seattle will not be endorsing anyone in this race, many of Huff's endorsers are reliable progressives whom we can trust---Fuse, Washington Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and more. For this special election, your ballots must be postmarked by February 3.
Using words such as "visionary," "complicated," and "serious" to describe the bored-tunnel proposal for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the Seattle Times editorial board appears to have suddenly developed a taste for tunnels and a tolerance for taxes. We can't figure out why, though. The ed. board obviously loves that the plan might result in less disruption than would the alternatives:
In dramatic contrast to the earlier tunnel plan, sequencing of
events requires much less down time for waterfront businesses and
streets, with obvious deleterious spillover onto Interstate 5. The old
plan would have resulted in perhaps six years of disruption; this
approach involves less severe interruption for about half that time. This is key: The viaduct doesn't come down until the tunnel is finished. We've seen what long construction projects can do to a neighborhood. They can kill business and stymie mobility.
Other than that, however, we're hard pressed to see why the ed. board is excited. Usually hostile to new taxes, the board doesn't seem bothered by the prospect of $1.4 billion in new local taxes (at least) and $400 million collected from tolls on the tunnel:
The cost of the project is pegged at $4.25 billion, with most of the
total the state share, $2.8 billion already in hand [ed.: this is a misleading characterization of the state's contribution; it is not "in hand," but merely promised, and the state's commitment is $2.8 billion but the state budget currently allots only $2.4 billion towards the project; presumably the remainder will be funded with tolls], and the local
portion coming from specified new tax sources. No need to be naive. The cost is a guesstimate; the final number will be higher [ed.: yes, it will be higher; engineering is currently only 1% complete]. Very importantly, increased costs to local residents will be high
but borne over many years. The sincere hope is that the economy will
Sure, higher taxes may be "borne over many years," which certainly decreases their sting, but these higher taxes will decrease the likelihood that other new taxes could be levied to fund bus-service expansion (other than the service increases included in the bored-tunnel plan), the streetcar network, and the Bicycle Master Plan. So the bored-tunnel will preclude other investments in Seattle's transportation infrastructure. Brushing aside this consideration and the huge new tax bill, the board seems to view this as a jobs program:
The current recession is one factor that helps make this project
more attractive. The convergence of a jobs package and economic
stimulus combined with the longtime vision of connecting the city to
the waterfront gives this package momentum.
Um, all alternatives for replacing the Viaduct would create jobs. And the surface-transit options would also open the city to the waterfront. So it's hard to see how these are comparative advantages for the bored-tunnel plan. Still, the board dismisses the alternatives, namely the surface-transit options:
Another factor is that all those supporters of a so-called
surface-transit option had to realize that the capacity needs of their
favorite solution could never be met. The line of red lights would have
choked the streets with traffic.
The point of surface-transit options, however, was never to try to move as many vehicles as could the existing highway or as would a replacement highway. The point was to move people, and to do it as cost-efficiently as possible and in a way that would reorient our transportation investment to a progressive mix of facilities for walking, biking, and riding transit.
State Rep. Takko, who represents a district in the Tri-Cities area and is a huge booster of the wood-products industry (i.e., paper-bag manufacturers), had promised last summer to introduce a bill banning Washington cities from imposing bag fees like Seattle's. He has followed through on his promise:
House Bill 1154 (concerning fees or taxes on disposable shopping bags)
Introduced by Rep. Dean Takko, (D-Longview) (D) on January 14, 2009,
prohibits local governments from charging a tax, fee or any monetary
charge on the use or transport of disposable shopping bags. http://www.washingtonvotes.org/Legislation.aspx?ID=69674
Now the question is whether he can get his bill out of committee, passed by the House, passed by the Senate, and signed by the Governor. Here's hoping the answer is "no."
Senate Joint Resolution 8207 (Requiring that toll revenues be used exclusively for highway purposes)
Introduced by Sen. Val Stevens, (R-Arlington) (R) on January 15, 2009,
proposes an amendment to the state Constitution to include toll
revenues in the defined fees to be used exclusively for highway
Under current law, a development project "vests" when the developers applies for permits, meaning any changes in land-use regulations do not affect the project. In effect, Washington's vesting rule freezes land-use regulations in time, and local governments may not require the development to comply with new land-use laws. But that rule may change:
Senate Bill 5148 (changing Washington vesting laws)
Introduced by Sen. Adam Kline, (D-Seattle) (D) on January 15, 2009, to
change the Washington state vesting laws so that a project is vested at
the time of approval of application, not submittal. This would mean
that an application is review and approved based on new rules and
regulations, even if the new rules and regulations were approved after
the submittal of the application. http://www.washingtonvotes.org/Legislation.aspx?ID=69786
The Great Wall of Chopp can still be beaten, but only if the people
who oppose it—that would be just about everyone—can get
together behind an option instead of bickering among themselves. And
that's a big if—currently, opponents of the Chopp option are
widely divided, with some (like King County executive Ron Sims)
supporting a surface option and others (like King County Council member
Larry Phillips) apparently still favoring a tunnel, which viaduct
planners rejected as prohibitively expensive.
We recommend this upcoming event on the Alaskan Way Viaduct:
WHO: Panelists include Grace
Crunican, Seattle Department of Transportation; Patrick Gordon,
Chair, Downtown Seattle Association; Cary Moon, People's
Waterfront Coalition; Dave Freiboth, King County Labor
After years of talk, it's time to rally around
a plan to take down the dangerous Alaskan Way Viaduct and fix
Seattle's waterfront. A Municipal League forum on Dec. 2 will
examine options and build support for a solution.
Since the public voted in Feb. 2007,
Seattle went from two options (tunnel vs. rebuild) and an implied
third (streets and transit) to nearly a dozen. After a long public
process, stakeholders representing business, design, transportation
and other interests have agreed on guidelines for mobility, cost and
the economic, environmental and civic impact. Gov. Gregoire, Mayor
Nickels and County Executive Sims have set a goal of Dec. 31 to
decide on a final plan.
The forum will begin with brief
presentations of the options and the common guidelines determined by
the stakeholders process so far. We aim to focus on results: Which
option can be implemented fastest with the best long-term cost
benefit, while keeping people and freight moving? What's the best
solution for the future of Seattle and the region?
Help get the word out about Seattle Prop 2, the Parks and Green Spaces Levy. Join the Seattle Parks for All campaign in distributing literature to key voters. Last
weekend, volunteers distributed information to almost 13,000
households; we're hoping to have an even more successful round this
weekend. FoS volunteers will be meeting this Saturday, October 18, at 10 a.m. at the Lower Woodland Playfields. If you'd like to join the FoS group, email Bridgette Maryman at email@example.com. And plan to join fellow FoS volunteers for lunch and a drink after the we're finished (location tbd). For more information on the Parks campaign, check out www.seattleparksforall.org.
Have questions on the Sound Transit expansion plan that will be on your November ballot?
So do we. That's why we've put together a question and answer session
with Sound Transit's Executive Director of Policy, Planning and Public
Administration, Ric Ilgenfritz.
Please join Friends of Seattle for an in-depth look at this proposed investment in our bus and rail system. We promise - this is not a lecture. We're going to cut Ric off after 15 minutes and let you ask the questions.
$10 suggested donation includes a drink.
Questions? Contact Anna Boone.
We hope to see you there!