Saturday’s Seattle Times Editorial is just the latest example of their past ineptitude when it comes to transportation matters. It begins with the highly dubious assertion:
To ensure that the May 23 bridge collapse was a rare, freak accident, lawmakers should move swiftly and pass and pass a transportation-funding package paid mostly with a 10-cent increase in the gas tax.
A far more cost effective way of avoiding problems would be to revise the “permitting” procedures for over-size vehicles. They follow that with the following threat:
Failure to include $450 million for the crossing — as Oregon already has — would set back 12 years of work and cost $850 million in federal funding tied to light rail. King and his colleagues should budge, and allow Vancouver to tie into Oregon’s 52 miles of light rail.
The idea federal authorities would refuse to fund part of the Columbia Bridge because it doesn’t include light rail is also highly speculative.
The Times pro-light-rail attitude has blinded them to a far better way to fund the areas local transportation than the 10-cent gas tax increase namely: redirecting the $20 billion Sound Transit is currently planning to spend over the next 10 years on light rail.
The 10-cent gas tax would annually raise about $200-250 million or a tenth of what ST will spend each year extending light rail to Bellevue, Federal Way, and Lynnwood. Stopping East Link would prevent the devastation of large areas of Bellevue and stop light rail’s confiscation of the center roadway that will increase, not decrease, cross-lake congestion (See 6/19/13 Post).
Stopping Central Link extensions to Federal Way and Lynnwood would keep ST from incurring a huge public construction debt and the need for large increases in subsidies necessitated by the longer routes. Again transit times for light rail on both extensions would likely be longer than those currently available with buses (6/21/13 Post).
In conclusion, the best way for the Seattle Times to improve transportation funding is to urge the legislators to use their WSDOT oversight to insist ST hire outside consultants to justify their light rail expansion plans by conducting a cost/benefit analysis for each extension. One would think a state DOT would have done this without any legislative direction. Unfortunately the WSDOT has been an active partner with ST for years (7/19/12 Post). (Last years financial audit was, to put it charitably, “incomplete” (11/06/12 Post).) It’s highly unlikely any extension could survive a competent review.