Lining up for the north bus
Bellevue Transit Center, by Oran via the STB flickr pool.
  • The Obama administartion is looking at creating an infrastructure bank based on the European Investment Bank. Through this mechanism, states or transportation programs could borrow money through the feds at a very low rate. H/T to Zach.
  • An anti-viaduct initiative is moving foward. The initiative would prohibit any use of City property to be used during construction. The initiative filers have until July to come up with 18,000 signatures.
  • I recently found this interesting blog, the National Journal’s expert blog. The blog features short posts by transportation experts like BSNF CEO Matt Rose, Gov. Tom Kaine of Virginia, and Robert Puentes of the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative. In a recent post entitled “How Would You Improve The Stimulus Bill?”, Pete K. Rahn, the director of Missouri DOT has this to say:

    The $30 billion highway and bridge amount does not live up to the rhetoric preceding the release of the overall package. $30 billion is not going to “repair America’s crumbling roads and bridges” and it does not represent “the greatest investment in infrastructure since Eisenhower.” At under 70% of a normal annual highway appropriation, the program lacks critical mass. The transportation portion should be doubled. A change I would make to the proposal is to allow the use—on a one-time emergency basis—of transit funds for system operations due to the severe decline in other ordinary revenues. I don’t believe any other areas of the stimulus proposal have to be reduced to increase the transportation-funding portion

    Amen, brother!

  • On the other hand, President Obama has pushed through rules allowing states to set more strigent fuel economy standards than the feds do, something Former President Bush wouldn’t allow. So much for Republicans being the states’ rights party…
  • State House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) has an op-ed in the Times about the future of Washington State Ferries. Basically, she outlays the budget troubles facing the Ferries service: a $3.5 billion budget shortfall over the next 22 years if current service is to be maintained. Ouch.
  • Josh Feit over at Publicola has more details on the Futurewise and TCC v Seattle Displacement Coalition fight over the Transit Oriented Development Bill going through Olympia.
  • The Times had a piece over the weekend on how the Viaduct replacement decision was made. In short, business leaders and the Port were dead against the surface options.

9 Replies to “News Round Up”

  1. Regarding Representative Clibborn’s op-ed, I would like to bring back my idea of merging the state ferry system with Sound Transit.

    After the relentless, state-wide tax cutting initiatives of the ’90s, the idea of regional investment districts (such as our RTID) seems to be more and more popular in Olympia (judging from the press). If we merged the two organizations, it would seem to stabilize funding for the ferry system by giving it additional access to deep pockets on the east side of the Sound, while Sound Transit would have greater representation in the legislature, particularly in the Senate. Senate Transportation Committee Chair Mary Haugen (D-Camano) would suddenly become Sound Transit’s biggest fan. And once housed under the same organizational roof, planning for the two systems would naturally integrate, and one day we might see rail extend over the two peninsulas.

    It’s a complete brainstorm…more knowledgeable commenters may choose to remind me that there’s only one letter’s difference between “deft” and “daft”.

    (Thanks for rescuing the Telegraph’s article on the bank, BTW)

    1. The legislature needs to buck up and provide a dedicated source of capital funding for the ferry system.

      While merging the ferry system with ST or RTID sounds like a nifty idea there is the problem of expanding the districts to include the communities served by the ferry system.

      For Sound Transit there would be the further issue of sub-area equity which would prevent taxes from the East King subarea paying for any ferry service. The Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas aren’t going to see any sort of rail transit any time soon. They simply don’t have the density to justify the investment.

      1. I think you have a great point on the far eastern stretches of RTID in east King, but I would disagree on the viability of commuter across Kitsap and over the OP.

    2. If the legislature was a useful source of funding for ST, I’d consider it. For now, though, ST has enough on its plate without adding a bunch of no voters and a very small tax base.

      Kitsap County rail is just about the lowest priority imaginable. If you want urban amenities live in an urban area.

  2. Taking on WSF would sink ST in a hurry. Ferry system revenue (fares) generate only about 60% of what it costs to run the system. The remainder is for the most part made up by the State gas tax (something like 25 cents per gallon). ST doesn’t have State wide taxing authority so while it may be a little more fair the smaller population base that would be called upon to fund the ferry system would be hit hard. That’s not even touching on the issue of capital investment which the ferry system is going to be in need of in a big way very soon.

    Even if the financing were viable I don’t see any economy in having ST run the ferry system. It’s very different than operating buses or rail. As far as having more clout in Olympia, 1) you can’t get blood from a stone, 2) ST is already a Juggernaut that feels immune to public opinion and local government. I think they need more accountability and less clout.

    1. I’m cheering the part about how the bill doesn’t match the rhetoric. Obama spent months saying how big an infrastructure investment we were about to make, here’s the quote:

      Second, we will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s.

      That’s laughable when looking at this stimulus bill.

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