Sound Transit’s board has just over two weeks to decide whether it wants to move forward with an $8 billion, 15-year plan to extend light rail to Lynnwood, Federal Way, and Bellevue this November. The plan, still in the works, is a volley to board members from Pierce and Snohomish Counties, who were unhappy with an earlier 12-year plan that included less light rail and are still debating whether to support it.
The odd thing about this 15-year plan is that there is no public information about it — it is definitely being worked on behind the scenes. Hopefully at the board meeting later today we’ll see some discussion about it. There’s an political risk here if that 15-year plan goes to the ballot, it would have to be approved by the board before Sound Transit takes has public comment period. The opposition could claim that Sound Transit hadn’t listened to voters — however a smart response would be to say that any new plan is based on feedback during the public review meetings. However, as we’ve discussed here Sound Transit is an odd position of being both a transit advocacy group and a public agency — the latter of which makes running a political campaign impossible.
One unfortunate bit of recent news is that anti-rail ads have begun airing even though Sound Transit hasn’t decided whether to go to the ballot, or what to go to the ballot with:
The Eastside Transportation Association (ETA), funded in part by Bellevue Square developer Kemper Freeman Jr., criticizes light rail in the ads, saying the money would be better spent on roads, bridges and bus service throughout the suburbs. Sound Transit’s governing board, composed mainly of elected officials from urban Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, is split over how many projects to propose.
The group spent about $50,000 on a two-week blitz, covering 16 to 20 ads a week on four or five stations, including KIRO, KOMO and KWJZ, said treasurer Bruce Nurse, who is also vice president of Kemper Development. He said Freeman is the ETA’s largest funder, but another person donated $25,000 last year. Freeman is a longtime advocate of freeway expansion to reduce congestion.
So I guess that makes us the underdogs, for now.