Earlier this week, gubernatorial front-runners Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee both announced their opposition to the provision in state law that holds Seattle taxpayers responsible for any cost overruns on the deep-bore tunnel project. Whether that drives any action in the legislature remains to be seen.
What I’m more interested in, however, is the more forgotten part of the 2009 deal: a local 1% Motor Vehicle Excise Tax to fund $190m in capital improvements in transit and support continuing operations of the buses to utilize it. Although substantially less extensive than the contents of the rival plans, the improvements would be critical to providing alternatives to driving in an outcome with less vehicle capacity than there is today and substantial traffic diversion due to tolling.
Despite signing a letter than vowed “to support efforts” to secure this revenue, Governor Gregoire jettisoned this critical part of the plan only three weeks later when it received a cool reception in Olympia.
The MVET would have covered additional RapidRide and peak express bus service in the SR 99 corridor; a new Burien-Delridge RapidRide line; and make trolleywire and downtown street improvements for transit. It also included an (unfunded) commitment to look at the First Avenue streetcar, a plan that Seattle has advanced and now could use authority from the State to fully fund.
I emailed the McKenna and Inslee campaigns on Monday to discover their position on full implementation of the tunnel plan, and have not received a response from either.