Contra Ben’s post, chalk me up as doubtful we’ll get anything out of Olympia. I gave up on that place a long time ago, and the current budget situation means we’re getting nothing for a good long while.  I’d be thrilled if they just fixed the bridges that are about to fall down.

On the other hand, President-elect Obama has declared his intention to put forth a $500 ~ $700 billion infrastructure plan that would generate some two to five million jobs.  To be an effective stimulus, of course, the money has to be spent soon, so projects that require years of public hearings aren’t going to be helpful. Obama has set a time frame of two years for for the projects.

Here’s a handy guide to some things that could be done right away, if only the money were in the bank, helpfully organized by Congressional District:

1st District: Jay Inslee

Permanent Sounder Station at Edmonds. The current Sounder Station at Edmonds is a temporary one, and about $30 million is needed to get a permanent station there. Designs have been done for a while now.

New Washington State Ferries. These ferries are expensive, and WSF is hurting for money right now.

Park-and-Rides. There’s the Mountlake Terrace park-and-ride, I believe $2 million on that link is a very low estimate, but some money is needed to complete the freeway park-and-ride there. Then there’s the Mukilteo Park-and-Ride on SR 525.

6th District Norm Dicks

Dicks is on the appropriations committee, and has been since 1976, so he may have an unusual amount of influence.

Point Defiance Bypass. Design work on this bypass is 100% percent complete, according to WSDOT, but is underfunded by at least $15 million. The re-routing of traffic away from Point Defiance would have significant time savings for both Sounder and Amtrak, and would allow the already constructed Lakewood station and in design South Tacoma station to get connected to Sounder. I bet this would be a huge increase in ridership. The South Tacoma station itself is short about $15 in funding as well.

Also, Ferries, see above.

7th District: Jim McDermott

Streetcars can be built very quickly, the South Lake Union Streetcar went from concept to riders in less than two years. Since the City has already gone through construction of one line, another should be even easier. With a final viaduct design coming online in the next couple of months, some funding for one of these lines in the a stimulus package couple be very likely. Also, Prop. 1 included $120 million for the First Hill Streetcar, which is not quite enough to get the line to the north end of Broadway, and even then the line wouldn’t open until 2016.

Alaskan Way Viaduct. A final design for the viaduct is likely to be agreed on over the next couple of months, and cost estimates have already been put together. Quick funding would make a big difference in moving this forward.

Metro Fleet Replacement. Metro wants 50 new 40-foot hybrid electric/diesel buses for 2009 and 2010 to expand the fleet and replace diesel buses that are reaching the end of their useful life.

8th District: Dave Reichert

520-Bridge: The engineering estimates are coming alone pretty quickly, but the bridge is still very short on funding. My concern with advocating for funding for the $6.6 billion bridge, is that it might eat up a huge portion of the stimulus funding for our area. Having said that, I travel across the bridge each day, and a new bridge is desparately needed.

See Metro buses above.

9th District: Adam Smith

Tukwila Sounder Station. Sound Transit has purchased land for the station and parking garage, but is waiting for funding to build both. Only $16 million is currently available, and most of these stations cost more like $30 or $40 million, so the shortfall is significant. The station is currently in design, though it could be finished quickly.

Rapid Ride implementation. King County Metro is looking to cut about $40 million in capital projects, and some of this money could come from Rapid Ride. With optimistic funding, Rapid Ride wouldn’t be online until 2011 at the earliest, and some federal funding could speed this along. Also see Metro buses above.

Both Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are elected at-large, so all of these projects are part of their domain. Cantwell is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Murray is on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and is chair of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. They have a lot of influence, especially with a Democrat in the White House.

Assuming it’s spent based on population proportion, admittedly a big assumption, a $500 billion stimulus would give our region about $6 billion worth of projects, and a $700 billion about $8.3 billion worth. Take a minute and shoot an email to your representitive and our senators and let them know you want transit to be part of the stimulus package.

19 Replies to “Forget Olympia, It’s Congress”

  1. I’d also like some federal dollars to complete the restoration of King Street Station – I am sure that SDOT will have funding difficulties for when they get around to taking down the station’s old ceiling.

    Also, some federal funding for Leavenworth Station and for paying for border security guards on a second trainset to Vancouver – who cares at this point if it should be Canada’s responsibility or not – we need that second train before the 2010 Olympics in Whistler.

    I agree about all of your other priorities – especially securing funding for Metro’s problems – this is a pledge of good faith program because of Transit Now promises that need fulfillment.

    We’ve talked about this in other posts, but perhaps some federal dollars could go the way of providing a moving walkway through the garage at SeaTac Airport from the new Link Station being built.


    1. I feel sorry for my colleagues at King County DOT who are facing lay offs and budget cuts. Meanwhile at SDOT, things have been going well since we have the Bridging The Gap (BTG) levy giving us more money to do things we were never able to do. The City doesn’t have the major budget problems the County and State has.

      King Street Station restoration is funded by WSDOT and Seattle. BTG brings in $10 million. WSDOT contributes $16.5 million from local, state, and federal funds. So there should be some federal money in there. More would be nice to cover potential WSDOT cuts.

  2. Any chance we could start on ST3? It wouldn’t be complete in 2 years, but it would certainly ramp up jobs well before that.

    (yeah, I know I’m dreaming)

    1. The amount of engineers and planners to plan a project is much smaller than the amount that construction generates. I doubt we’ll get any funding for even ST2. U-Link is probably excluded since the feds are already giving us $813b.

      Changes are okay for for ST station improvements and the streetcars… Maybe. Downtown bus improvements (Ron Sims’ 49 things) that the Viaduct plan would fund could also be moved forward. I think the most likely funding will come from the D to M street Sounder connection through Tacoma (Point Defiance Bypass).

  3. I hate to Beat what some would call a dead horse, however

    Federal funding for the ESR at $1B for the full ST gold plated rollout should also be on the list

    1. I would agree on this one as well.

      You know what is scary about the ESR and that is the fact that so many posters have commented on the poor state of the tracks that is easy to forget that the Spirit of Washington Train ran on these same poor tracks for years and now we learn that the whole thing was close to falling apart:) Glad we didn’t find out till now, then again, if we had, maybe we would have done something earlier when it would have been all less costly.


      1. Or possiably the “Falling Apart” status is an easy way for ST to drive up the price, trying to make some other alternative look better ;)

      2. Max of two I believe and I have no idea how fast – probably not very if the tracks are poor and it did take three hours to get to Woodinville from Renton so I am guessing it went not much faster than about 15 miles an hour which seems pretty slow – would make the Coast Starlight seem like the bullet train by comparison:)

        Anyway, my point still stands – that there are a lot of passenger trains in the United States running on sub par tracks and it sounds as if the Eastside Corridor is even below that and yet it was taking passenger trains for all that and across the Bellevue trestle too which might seem scarier still.


    2. Even if they had $1 billion tomorrow, I don’t think they would be able to begin construction within two years.

      1. there are large portions of this project that would not need unique customized plans (or they already exist)

        The first $107M goes to BNSF to secure the ROW

        once the ROW is secured
        $20M goes to replace teh bridge over 405 (WSDOT has this bridge design complete, and on file)
        Neither of the other 2 major bridges has to be done imediatly, and can take however long they need in design phase(stop at Harvey Field in Snohomish, and use the existing Trestle with repairs in Bellevue)

        Track (and road bed):
        Repairs can begin immediatly as location is predetermined (they will follow the existing road bed), and the crossection of what needs to be done follows a standard design.

        Rail platforms would probably have to wait until the railbed is upgraded, however as the majority of the stations are simple park and rides, the design should not take an extended amount of time

        Signal and Controll:
        Again like the track, there are industry standards, this should not take a rocket scientist years to impliment ;)

  4. ESR is just not relevant to this discussion. The Feds are going to look at construction time lines and the usefulness of the projects. Well, no EIS has been completed for ESR and both studies of the corridor have found it not suitable. It will not receive funds even under the most glamorous scenarios. The Feds have no reason to fund this project, even if you believe the studies are rigged.

    1. You don’t need an EIS to fix existing track and bridges. It could start tomorrow, most track and ballast work is done by machines with existing track in place. Pretty cool to watch!

      1. This is exactly the point that seems to be missed. The line exists and work can start in days, not years or decades. The longer it’s pushed out the more studies and politics will make it expensive and or impossible. If Ron Sim’s has his way it will be converted to a bike trail ASAP to effectively shut down this rail option on the eastside forever.

        Besides the Dinner Train, which ran slow because people needed time to eat dinner and the rolling stock was antique, BNSF used this track to transport 737 fuselages built in Kansas City to Renton. Do you really think Boeing would risk cargo like this on tracks that were in as poor condition as the bicycle bias reports would have you believe?

        Tukwilla Station, Hospital Station (Overlake Med. Center) and all P&R projects are prime for stimulus dollars as are the ROW and station improvements south of Tacoma. Restoration of the ESR corridor would help with many of these projects because it can be used to move over sized loads much easier than trucks and without interfering with BNSF freight operations.

  5. We have to “strike while the fire is hot”, and right now, that means pressing for greater funding from the federal government for light rail, while pressing for deep structural policy change at the state level.

    Andy is right: the state budget is so in the red that any funding from the state level is a long time in coming, even if the governmental apparatus was set up to promote rail (which it certainly is not). Moreover, the state budget for capital transportation projects is something like $500mn for every two years (Correct me if I’m wrong; I don’t have my research in front of me). That’s $250mn a year to be spread in capital projects statewide, for all transportation modes. A small slice of that pie is not going to make a substantial difference for ST.

    However, the federal government is primed to assist us dramatically, to a degree we haven’t seen since the ’70s.
    -Both the legislative and executive branches are controlled by a party that is either pro-rail or at least open to funding for mass transit.
    -This puts long-time friends of transit, such as Joe Biden and Mike Dukakis, in a position of real influence over policy
    -Former Vice President Al Gore is calling in every chip he’s got to promote radical change on behalf of the environment
    -The current economic hardship is so serious that even deficit hawks are calling for a very large stimulus package next year.
    -Sound Transit is well-placed to receive large amounts of federal dollars, in that 1)many of its projects are well along the design and approval process, and 2)Patty Murray is part of the senior leadership team in the Senate.

    In recognition of this, a full court press should be unleashed NOW in winning federal grants for Sound Transit, so it can go farther, faster. I want to see the dirt flying, from Everett to Redmond to Tacoma.

    At the state level, the “fire is hot”, not for funding, but for a rare opportunity to change some very entrenched bureacratic opposition to rail. A Referendum To The People in the fall of 1944 mandates that most state monies for transportation be devoted to roads and ferries. Notice there is nothing about “rail” in there. Realize that this not only shuts off the funding tap for any kind of rail project, but naturally orients WASHDOT to be pro-highway…literally because that is their mandate. Which means that all of their hiring, all of their solutions, and all of their organizational culture will be obsessively centered on highways.

    With dominant control of the state legislature not seen since the mid-60’s, and a semi-activist governor in her second term, we have an opportunity to pivot Olympia towards rail. This opportunity is set against a background where structural change is going to have to happen anyway, because of the serious budget shortfall, and at a time when the state’s cultural divide is changing from East vs. West to Urban vs. Rural. In other words, we could find very powerful friends in places like Spokane, which is already considering either light rail or a streetcar, and some of the smaller cities such as Port Angeles or Yakima.

    So I think we should push the federal government hard for money for ST, but at the same time begin in earnest what will be a tough, multi-year struggle to change the policy cornerstones of Olympia. While the state capitol will never be in a position to devote large amounts of money to light rail, we can benefit by 1)winning money for much cheaper streetcar proposals and 2)by forcing WASHDOT to actively consider rail in its transportation planning now and into the future.

  6. I think people are thinking too small here. $600 billion works out to an average of $1,379,310,344/Congressional district. Granted, not all of that $1.3 billion is going to go to transportation, but after you offset the shortfall in state and local government budgets in the upcoming biennium you’re still talking at least a couple of billion dollars to spend within the Puget Sound area. And that’s assuming that urban districts get no more stimulus per capita than rural ones, and that our Senators do only an average job of getting our piece of the pie.

    If you exempt 520 and the viaduct from your list, you could easily pay for everything you’ve listed and hardly made a dent in the overall allocation within the region. What eats up all that money is the big highway projects. We’re going to need local sources of revenue, or a scaling back of the scope of these projects.

    I’d choose scaling back. Go for one of the surface options for the viaduct, paying for it with a local improvement district tax. If the traffic really doesn’t adjust after a couple of years, we can revisit the decision not to build. For 520, go for the maximum tolling solution for both bridges, and limit new capacity to transit uses only.

    There are some highway projects that are worth doing well, and that includes fixing the Mercer Mess, repairing the South Park bridge, and upgrading the Spokane Street Viaduct. And there are some transit projects not worth doing–ESR most prominent among them.

  7. It’s my understanding that the federal funding would be for projects that are “ready to go” and could begin construction within 120 to 180 days of receiving funding. See today’s PI: This would eliminate projects like the viaduct and 520.

    Also, what is the $2 million needed for the Mountlake Terrace P&R. They are finishing up work on the garage. It will be opening this spring just as construction will be starting on the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station.

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