Thanks in part to all your phone calls and email, Representative Simpson’s first amendment (PDF) to the budget bill passed will almost definitely pass Monday! This amendment will strike Representative Clibborn’s requirement that the joint transportation committee assess the value of the I-90 express lanes before WSDOT can sign off on an EIS. Please check out the amendment and be sure to thank your reps – there’s a list of those who signed on at the top.
He’s followed it up with a second amendment we also like, which will also move Monday. Jarrett’s senate amendment would have required an asset assessment as well, but it was an unfunded mandate – he included no money. This new Simpson amendment funds an assessment, and ensures it’s conducted by ST and WSDOT, not the joint transportation committee. He also makes sure Sound Transit’s CEO has a say in who the consultant will be, and specifically calls out that it must account for the previous agreements made regarding I-90.
The best part? It has to be done by December 1st, meaning none of this mess would affect the East Link schedule. It essentially ties up all the loose ends that the Clibborn and Jarrett amendments created.
The next part makes me cautiously optimistic. All this attention may have made an impact across the board. There’s another amendment from Judy Clibborn, and it seems pretty simple – it adds $10.6 million to the R8A project in this biennium. She’s been saying this in constituent email for a couple of days, but I wanted to hold off on writing anything about it until I had a reference. The catch (notice how there’s always a catch?) is that it’s specifically restricted to funding preliminary engineering. I don’t know whether that meshes with Sound Transit’s funding for the project, or if there’s even $10 million of preliminary engineering to be done, so we’ll see whether this is entirely positive – but it is a small step in the right direction.
I’m not sure if either of these new amendments have had a vote yet, and as they’re both House-only, we’ll have to follow up with our legislators to ensure that they make it through the conference committee into the final bill.
So, to round up on the three big Sound Transit-related legislative issues:
- R8A funding appears to be partly replaced. This is good, the Clibborn amendment is similar to what the Governor requested in her budget, and there’s a good chance this will remain.
- This asset assessment thing isn’t dead, but the big danger of halting negotiation between WSDOT and ST seems to be averted. Clibborn has still said the valuation of the center lanes could be between “$0 and $2.8 billion” – and while she’s told constituents she expects it to be at the lower end of that range, I’ll be following up with some information about what might help determine that.
Regional Mobility Grants are still okay in the Senate at $40 million, but gutted in the House. These are awarded competitively, and Sound Transit does very well. These could help with R8A, with Sounder to Lakewood, and with bus purchases. The House version shuts Sound Transit out entirely and overrides the competitive process. What concerns me here is that Clibborn could easily say she’s only willing to take her R8A amendment or the regional mobility grant language from the Senate. I don’t know that we’ll be able to get any information about this process before it’s over, but we’re trying.
Overall, there’s been some great progress here! If you have time, I urge you to take a moment to thank Representative Simpson for pulling transit out of the fire here, and your own legislators if they helped him out.
Whoops: The amendments are going to a vote on Monday, the first one hasn’t actually passed yet – but it has enough cosigners to do so. It looks like both of Simpson’s amendments strike Clibborn’s section 17, so the first one will probably be replaced with the new one.