Martin had a fantastic post this morning about the I-90 Two Way Transit and HOV project, also known as Alternative R-8A, or just R8A. I want to add to this some history, and exactly why this is a key issue for transit.

In 1976, a Memorandum of Agreement was reached to build I-90. There are some gems in here, but I think the key is that I-90 was originally intended to be converted to rail:

2. The I-90 facility shall be designed and constructed so that conversion of all or part of the transit roadway to fixed guideway is possible.

In 2004, the same stakeholders partnered with Sound Transit to amend the 1976 Memorandum of Agreement. This amendment (and it’s really worth a read, it’s pretty short) established that:

“…all parties agree that the ultimate configuration for I-90 between Bellevue, Mercer Island and Seattle should be defined as High Capacity Transit in the center roadway and HOV lanes in the outer roadways; and further agree that High Capacity Transit for this purpose is defined as a transit system operating in dedicated right-of-way such as light rail, monorail, or a substantially equivalent system;”

Furthermore, they liked one particular alternative for reaching this configuration:

“…all parties agree that building HOV lanes on the outer roadways as identified as Alternative R-8A as set forth in the May 21, 2004 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) prepared for the project, is an essential first step toward achieving the ultimate configuration;”

The final resolution was crystal clear, we need to put HOV lanes on the outer roadway ASAP:

1. Alternative R-8A with High Capacity Transit deployed in the center lanes is the ultimate configuration for I-90 in this segment;
2. Construction of R-8A should occur as soon as possible as a first step to the ultimate configuration;
3. Upon completion of R-8A, move as quickly as possible to construct High Capacity Transit in the center lanes;
4. Commit to the earliest possible conversion of center roadway to two-way High Capacity Transit operation based on outcome of studies and funding approvals.

WSDOT has a fantastic project page where you can see the details of R8A and the schedule WSDOT committed to – with construction ending in 2014. Martin noted that Sound Transit needs this to happen before they can build East Link – so anything the state does to alter this schedule will directly impact our ability to build light rail to the eastside.

So why am I writing this? Because the response we’ve gotten demands some scrutiny. Last time I wrote about this project, it was to point out that Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1978 (PDF), the bill to distribute transportation stimulus funds, reduced funding for R8A Stage 1 (page 42). When I pointed out that Representative Judy Clibborn’s amendment removed money for R8A, Representative Eddy commented with (in part):

I am advised that the language in question reflects an accounting change. “We revised the amount for the I-90 two-way transit stage 1 project down by $2.8 M in the 2009 supplemental budget. This is due to project savings in stage 1. These savings are being transferred to the budget item for stages 2 & 3 of the project. Unfortunately the proviso does not mention this other budget item.”

She goes on to report that the total budget for stages 2 & 3 is being increased by $3.27 M, beyonjd the $2.8 reduction in ‘09 to recognize increased inflation.

A commenter named Allison emailed Clibborn and got this response:

The I-90 two-way transit project is a three-stage project. The first stage was completed $2.8 million under budget, so the savings on stage one have been transferred to stages two and three. – Judy Clibborn

In fact, ESHB 1978 did mention R8A stages 2 and 3 – it didn’t move money from stage 1 to them, it removed another $1.8 million from them (page 47).

A staffer in Olympia tells me the Senate Transportation Committee plans to release their 2009-2011 budget tomorrow at 12:30 pm. Do keep in mind that this is just Senate Transportation, not the House, but it will give us a good idea as to whether these promises will be kept. Tomorrow I’ll look at what’s in the budget, and we’ll figure out what’s next. See you then.

60 Replies to “A Very Quick Overview of Why R8A Matters to You”

  1. I’m told the Senate and House committees take turns to start the biennial budgets; 2007-2009 was the House, so this year it’s the Senate.

    1. I did not know that. What I’m curious about and don’t have an answer to is how long there’ll be in between the two budgets.

    2. I was not aware of the 1976 aggreement, thanks for the info.

      However saying that a long standing planning goal equates to engineering reliability is foolishness.

      And, consider the opposite case, that planning goal had created engineering performance which made rail safe on I-90, without question.

      Why then are we writing a blank check to resolve these already solved questions?

      If Rail on I-90 is feasible, fine, if it can’t be done at a reasonble cost than it shouldn’t be done. All we have right now is just another typical ‘planned’ cost overrun situation – hopefully a bigger concern than the load capacity of I-90 for rail.

      Implying that folks raise these points are acting irresponsible is irresponsible. The powers that be have used such accusations to drive people into the gutter while enriching themselves – a consisten problem in corporate/government america these days.

      Perhaps instead of raising taxes we should confiscate the assets of these scammers, including the primadonna patsies at STBlog to pay for these vitally important capital projects.

      Or, on the other, hand, my generation can pass along the deficit to yours. Is that okay with you?

  2. In Rep. Eddy’s defense, it was largely assumed when I-90 was built that transit would be handled by the state through a more broadbased regional authority with state involvement, as was the rage in those days. Sound Transit as it stands is hardly a Special Purpose District in function, though it is defined as such. That being the case, when you’re asked time and again to basically make-way-for-baby, you begin to ask questions until you see at least some kind of finished product.

    The calls for governance reform and apparent opposition to R8A are merely byproducts of ongoing skepticism toward the end result. Reps. Clibborn and Eddy may generally not see the stakes in the ground, but they can certainly see the stakes in their budget, and that makes them uneasy.

    Rep. Eddy, in particular, should not be accused of standing in the way of any region or city’s affairs as that would go counter to what she does in Olympia. I think in this instance, she’s being asked to treat Sound Transit as a long-lost son coming home to claim his family rite (in this case, fixed guideway being put on I-90 as originally planned), so she could be forgiven for proposing Shakespearean tests like governance reform legislation. I think ultimately, if the pudding is proven, she may let go a bit of this one.

    Personally, I don’t feel that governance reform should be the rule, but I think Sound Transit may at this point need some kind of government involvement to at least assuage some fears. Perhaps open the board to a second figure from Olympia. At least in that way, they don’t have to rely on audits, a word that is certainly very loaded, even if the end result is positive.

    Ultimately, though, this is her job, this is what she was elected to do– use a policy-minded eye to question all things proposed and in-process. Elevating her to the level of, say, Kemper Freeman is a bit wrong-headed, I think. Of course, I won’t say that anything said here is mean-spirited by and large, and I do hope she sees those that are arguing to get more background on her point for what they are and isn’t painting in such broad strokes that she sees this blog as being a nest of anti-Eddy/Clibborn doubters.

    So we can eventually agree to disagree (or maybe agree to agree, I hope!).

    1. Wait. Sound Transit delivers projects and passes all its audits, and it needs government involvement when that government can’t pay for its part? Not a chance.

      As long as the state can pretend they need their ‘fears’ assuaged, they can keep having these ‘fears’ until Sound Transit’s taxing authority builds lanes on 405. You can’t seriously argue that they have some question about Sound Transit’s ability to deliver projects – ST has been building projects with the state as a partner for a decade. ST is always the agency that ponies up the money and just sits back and waits for the legislature to figure out how to fund their part.

      In this case, the state identified the need for these HOV lanes the better part of a decade ago. Sound Transit paid for much of Stage 1, and has offered to build Stage 3 – more than once, the state has pulled money from R8A and Sound Transit has come up with the balance. The state has basically seen a budget reduction every single time Sound Transit has partnered with them. Find me a ‘stake’ in the state budget.

      This isn’t about some kind of skepticism on the state’s part. Just the opposite – the state can’t plan, so they’re leaning on Sound Transit to fill in their budget gaps, because they know Sound Transit’s ability to deliver projects is better than theirs.

      And doubting Clibborn? I don’t doubt Clibborn. She’s very straightforward. Have a look at the money quote here: “you’re taking my bridge and making it have less capacity”

      Fred Jarrett knows this is ridiculous:
      ‘Rep. Fred Jarrett, D-Mercer Island and a House Transportation Committee member, estimates the rail connection adds as much as 10 times the people-moving capacity of lane, though trains won’t carry that many riders initially. “How’s that reducing capacity?” he asked.’

      1. Well, let me put it bluntly to you: transit advocates should not be exempt from playing along with those things it finds distasteful when they demand the same of others. In this case, you’re so absolutely certain that Rep. Clibborn’s politicking justifies your stance that you’re implying she is an enemy of ST. Rather than advocate for ST, you’ve chosen a very clear and negative stance of advocating against Rep. Clibborn instead of getting out there and knocking on doors in Olympia.

        There will be disagreement among the ranks and you may disagree with what they’re doing, but that, again, is what their job is. This is why a reasoned response and putting forward a proper argument is always better than telling someone whose life is devoted to pushing agendas and being on any of numerous sides to an issue that they are wrong.

        Assuming that this is a major attack is like assuming the Rainier Valley alignment situation was a war. No, there are people who will disagree with your method in every route you attempt. Unlike Kemper Freeman, Rep. Clibborn seems to have a different idea of how this can be achieved, but there’s been no irrefutable proof that she is against the principle of what Sound Transit is doing.

        I think a valuable take-away from this is that Rep. Eddy is sitting in Transpo right now and you’re very subtly badmouthing a co-worker of hers. Taking that into mind, perhaps you should consider the gravity of Rep. Eddy’s involvement here– a well-measured and intelligent reply rather than “YOU ARE WRONG, STOP IT” can certainly be telegraphed, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Remember, this means you are now officially outspoken, so don’t make yourself outvoted.

        Perhaps proposing ideas rather than indictments will rub off? Perhaps Rep. Eddy will off-handedly remark in conversation with Rep. Clibborn, “Well, these guys are saying that perhaps to counter tolls we could make the HOV lanes exempt, or maybe those HOV lanes could be accessed without penalty by residents of Mercer Island with some kind of pass?” or whatever bright idea you bounce on the blog. At this rate, though, I think Rep. Eddy probably doesn’t want Rep. Clibborn to really delve into what’s being said here.

      2. AJ, I think you’ve made some good points.

        Not too delve too much into the behind the scenes stuff, we’ve been discussing internally some of the heat we’ve been putting out. I think your points might stand, and the bloggers here are trying to clean things up and make things less personal when they go too far. (I personally think this blog entry is a lot less heated than “dirty fingerprints”.)

        I think it’s great that Rep. Eddy reads these comments — her words in the below tolling threat were great to see.

        R8A is frustrating because people just aren’t being forthright about it, in my opinion. Maybe we’re not reaching out enough, but I’d love to hear from Eddy or Clibborn why it’s a good idea to move the funding for R8A out for these years.

      3. Okay, let *me* put it bluntly. I don’t see the indictment in this piece. Please point it out to me. I simply quoted the two Representatives.

        There isn’t an ‘alternative’ to putting light rail on I-90. It’s been studied to death since the early 1960s. Every single piece of fear, uncertainty, and doubt is now either from people who are underinformed (and having been paying attention to this for the last few years, I can easily answer every single question), or simply “concern trolling”.

        It seems you see Representative Clibborn has a “different idea of how this can be achieved” – perhaps you can point that out? I could just be missing it. It seems to me that she doesn’t want light rail on, as she has said, “her bridge”.

        And Mercer Island has already gotten the concession you suggest, in state law:

        “Expenditure of the funds on construction is
        contingent upon revising the access plan for Mercer Island traffic such
        that Mercer Island traffic will have access to the outer roadway high
        occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes during the period of operation of such
        lanes following the removal of Mercer Island traffic from the center
        roadway and prior to conversion of the outer roadway HOV lanes to high
        occupancy toll (HOT) lanes.”

        What is it going to take to convince you that the state is not playing in good faith anymore? You’ve just put the onus on me to suggest an alternative – mine is simple. Don’t increase I-405 funding by $70 million (part of ESHB 1978) when voters rejected that project and approved another.

        Isn’t the onus supposed to be on the people who made an agreement to fund a project? Sound Transit even doubled their contribution to help the state out.

      4. You are not thinking politically in the slightest– you have to realize that there has got to be more to this than you are willing to see. If you go back and check the main page of the blog, you’ll see numerous references to Rep. Clibborn.

        Why is this wrong? Well, for one, this is definitely a political fight since there is no vote except for the vote of the legislature, and when you fight politically, you have to attack the idea and you do it with tact. You refrain from referencing anything more than the idea and you try to frame your idea as a pro.

        Instead, you use frequent quotes from Rep. Clibborn, assuming the worst, when she could have easily have sunk this completely, which she didn’t. She could have deleted all funding, deferred to the feds to make a determination on this as part of the Interstate system– so many things could have happened.

        And you’ve been given a pretty big chance, and I think Rep. Eddy is going with it since she hasn’t stooped to completely calling you out for a lack of tact in the matter, even though she’s had to battle back on people slamming her for defending Rep. Clibborn.

        If you’re really that invested in this, you’ll realize quickly that fighting the person and not the idea is silly. She has one vote, but the idea, the foundation of the bill– that’s the law.

        So see Rep. Eddy’s side of this and work with what you’ve VERY graciously been given, since Representatives very VERY rarely bother to look at blogs like this one.

        And if you’re not going to take this chance, then I’m going to have to ask if you yourself has this region’s best interests in mind.

      5. Look, a lot of this sounds just… made up.

        No, Clibborn can’t ‘defer to the feds’ for anything. I-90 is owned by the state government, as far as I know.

        No vote but the vote of the legislature…? You know they get elected, right? That’s a vote. And initiatives are a vote too. Also, we just had this RTA vote that was pretty important.

        Clibborn can’t kill Sound Transit – governance reform failed again this year. Clibborn can definitely take away state money, and she can definitely charge an exorbitant sum to Sound Transit for use of the express lanes, and I expect both of those things to happen.

        And if me being a pain in the butt on some web site makes her change what she’s doing, she’s DEFINITELY not operating in the public interest.

  3. There is a lot of back-and-forth between Transportation Committee staffers, Senate and House … I only reported on R8A budgeting what I was told by a transportation budget staffer (who actually has pretty good cred on transit issues, by the way).

    Also, just to be clear … there are issues on which my dear friend Judy Clibborn and I disagree, sometimes strenuously. But however I may disagree with her (or she with me), I know that her intentions are always to serve the larger public good … as she sees it. And that’s mine, too. And I have no doubt that you guys posting here are also public-minded. There are no road warriors among us.

    Thanks for the kind words, AJ. We are sitting in Transportation Committee right now, ready to move such mundane bills as ESSB 5513, which extends authority to the transit police from buses only to include trains.

    1. The voters programmed some $4,500 million to a major public works project, and now a movement of $24 million by the legislature is holding that up, while at the same time, much more minor projects received new funding.

      If this is serving the larger public good, every single project that’s got funding this biennium must be more important than this $4,500 million project. That must be the case – because if even one project is less important than this one, then we’re not serving the larger public good by funding it instead. I wonder what that project list will look like tomorrow?

  4. I am skeptical about state legislators “serving the larger public good.” Their number one priority is usually re-election. And that election takes place within a specific legislative district. And each legislative district is influenced by very powerful forces, and loud voices who don’t often have “the larger public good” in mind. Every politician also has a small group of people who were responsible for getting them there…whether the politician wants to admit that, or not. That small group of individuals also may not have “the larger public good” very high on their agendas. This is one of those “inconvenient truths” nobody talks or writes about. Many of the people who influence elected officials actions enjoy – and are good at – flying under radar.

    1. Ultimately, everything is selfish, something transit advocates seem to forget. Look back through threads, see where people have made no effort to mask that they are largely excited about the new convenience Link will bring. That, regardless of viewpoint, is still selfish, even if it serves the larger public good.

      That being said, though, you have to realize right now that you are indeed on Olympia’s radar here, so clear-headed advocacy rather than screaming “I DISAGREE” will make this place seem a whole lot more palatable to legislators than it’s starting to feel right now.

      1. You might me lose me there. I know we have to be respectful and advocate responsibly, but in this particular case — the voters decided for Prop. 1 and we made the case then. Really, there’s no way the state is going to delay the I-90 crossing for light rail — that’s just absurd. So I think there’s some game going on… Whether it’s to get ST to pay it, whether it’s to balance the books and make the budget look better, or to get ST to pay a higher lease for the center lanes than otherwise, I have no idea. It just seems like a game with something that’s pretty serious.

      2. There are so many more things they can do to completely scuttle Link in its entirety, but they haven’t. Acting as though she should be ousted on this matter unless she votes one way (and remember, sponsor or not, committee or not, she’s one vote) is a bit shortsighted. Remember, if you’re outspoken, it’s that much easier to be outvoted. Were she to come back and get the FTA to raise doubts like “prior to I-90’s sinking, it was agreed that we would endeavor to put HCT across it, but then it sank and we’ve had a hard time justifying to constituents that it will be safe so projected ridership may not even be worth risking a vital part of the interstate system.”

        Since this is the “Seattle Transit Blog” and it’s been flogged before, it can certainly be used as a point against R8A if you misspeak or appear to be piling on.

        Watch floor debate on TVW– you’ll see that politically speaking, it’s largely a no-no to even mention someone by name negatively unless replying to them.

        You’ve got the legislature’s attention on a legislative matter– be a lot more tactful and lot more careful. I’m telling you. It could very well be a boost to the cause.

      3. They can’t do squat to scuttle Link. Even if they did, it gets them nothing but a bunch of crowded freeways they can’t afford to expand.

        Nobody in the legislature’s going to impact the FTA. I don’t understand why you’re so terrified of the state. They can’t do anything.

      4. AJ,

        You’ve been making some good points, but she’s more than “one vote”. She represents the district where this project is occurring. Legislators generally won’t fight hard for something that doesn’t affect their constituents. Add that to the fact that she’s chair of the transportation committee, and you’ve got a ton of influence over this project.

      5. While I think it is important to have as many of the state and local elected officials in the ST district to have a positive or at worst neutral view of ST. It shouldn’t be to the extent that ST is forced to do something very different than what they told the voters they would do.

        Ben’s right, the FTA isn’t going to give a flying fig what some state legislators might say. They are much more focused on the nuts and bolts of the proposal. Other than increasing risk or cost there is little a minority of legislators are going to be able to do to sway the FTA.

        Besides anyone who really wants to try to take on Sound Transit is likely to run smack into two local political forces of nature in the form of Sen. Murray and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon.

      6. AJ, the larger public good is obvious here. We had two votes. The public has indicated their preference for where their money goes, and when.

        If legislators don’t find that palatable, they shouldn’t be representing voters.

      7. That’s incredibly insulting, Ben, insinuating she hasn’t got the better public good in mind because you aren’t getting your way.

        She’s co-sponsoring a landmark domestic partnership bill with Rep. Eddy. I’d give 4 years on Link’s opening to get that passed because that is definitely something imperative and important.

        4 years of you riding a bus instead of a train versus things like the DP bill, that’s not thinking for the larger public good, right?

      8. If you think they’re petty enough to kill a domestic partnership bill based on some transit blogger, you’re seriously out of touch here.

        Although now I get the change in attitude.

      9. The domestic domestic partnership bill is extremely important, and if this were the “Seattle Civil Rights Blog” I’d spend a lot of time writing about that. Here at the Seattle Transit Blog, transit is being hurt, and we want an explanation.

      10. It already passed the Senate, and it has 57 cosponsors in the House. It’s passing.

    2. Well she said serving the public good as she sees it, which is different than your or my interpretation. Of course she may feel that staying elected is an effective way of serving the public good.

      1. In the case of Rep. Clibborn I believe there are 3 things going on:
        1. Wanting to keep the special access Mercer Island has to the I-90 bridge even at the cost of East Link.
        2. A desire to revisit the transit technology choices made by ST. I’m not sure if this is a general opposition to rail or is simply an extension of #1.
        3. Olympia has a giant sucking hole in the budget. Cutting things you aren’t in favor of in the first place is one of the easier choices to make.

        Now > 50% of the voters in her district did vote for Prop. 1. But it would seem the ones with the most influence over her actions don’t want to lose HOV lane access and don’t want tolls on I-90. At least in certain transportation matters it would seem she has a very parochial view which is unfortunate given the committee she chairs.

    1. Unless I’m missing something, that’s from Snoqualmie Summit to Hyak – up in the pass, not part of the Two Way Transit and HOV project.

      1. Ben, it’s 109040Q I-90/Two Way Transit, Stage 2 – Dowel Bar Retrofit. Looks pretty clear to me.

      2. It’s on the second page, #43.

        I don’t know if it will stay a separate project if no additional stimulus funding comes to Washington, but it is worth keeping an eye on if you’re trying to track the state investment in the overall Two-way Transit project.

      3. Ah ha! Thanks, I see it now. I missed a page when I was reading the first time through.

        You’re right, that looks like part of Stage 2.

        We’ll see how that fits in tomorrow, I guess. I think that’s still a subset of the 2017-2019 funding. If it was going to get stimulus money, that money would have appeared in ESHB 1978.

  5. AJ, as I said earlier I think we’re actively trying to tone down some of the personal nature of past posts. I don’t think post qualifies as heated and personal, or the previous post about tolls. While on the House floor it may be rude to call members by name, here it is simply to identify who or what (which toll package) we’re referring to.

    Some past posts have been too heated, so I can understand how your opinion might carry over to this piece. But I also know that Ben made sure that this blog post wasn’t heated, and I think he did a fine job at that. It’s ironic that you’ve chosen this relatively quiet post to express some of these views in. Please try to put things through a fresh lens, regardless of your conversation with Ben right now. What appears on the front page may not be the same content as what appears in the comments, of course.

    I firmly believe that there is a difference between the policy and the person, though there is a small intersection of time where they can be considered same (elections). I also agree the having Rep. Eddy as a reader is a unique opportunity.

    1. I think I’ve been flogged with this Domestic Partnership thing unfairly, considering it was used as an example of a “greater good” that Reps. Eddy and Clibborn have attached their names to. The insinuation that followed was a bit more than I can handle, and I feel now that it did a disservice to myself to even bring it up since the outward implication was one of “oh, right, he’s got a vested interest in this, hint hint, so of course he would bring this up, but it will still pass and yet we won’t get R8A so don’t even bring it up!”

      That seems a hard pill to swallow, but considering the accusations made like Rep. Eddy being a fellow at the Discovery Institute, a far right-leaning think-tank, it’s not hard to see that there may have been a lapse in respect that may have gone beyond the pale, especially how that accusation contrasts with, again, the example of the DP bill.

      Giving them the benefit of the doubt doesn’t hurt anyone, does it? Even if they “troll” forums. She did report back to us practically live from the transportation committee, so I’m not sure what hurt it would do to take the chance with this.

      1. (And yes, there is a difference between the intent and focus of the DI and Cascadia– I have no doubt that Rep. Eddy would not be elected as a democrat were she aligned fully with the DI)

      2. Perhaps this comments thread itself needs to calm down a bit or just end for now. AJ, I think your points are taken with regards to working somewhat within the system. Thanks for posting your thoughts, you’ve been a valuable contributor for quite some time now. Tell us how we handle the budget news tomorrow.

      3. Also, no one who writes here either a) would think differently of someone who brings up the domestic partnership or b) act differently to those effected by the domestic partnership bill.

        I’m sure Ben (or was it me?) meant something different.

  6. Wow, this thread has really jumped off the deep end. Some simple rules of civility should apply.
    . Never attack the person — ideas are always fair game
    . Show some respect of those we elect. Sen. or Rep. or Honorable proceeds the name.
    . The DP ‘guilt by association of idea’, was way over the top Ben.
    Some of you guys need a meet up, and drink plenty of beer!

    1. If I’m “way over the top” (Hi John and Martin), I get to defend myself.

      I recognize that sometimes people have particular things they want to see happen, and they see other things as a threat to that. I was just trying to figure out why I saw a huge difference between earlier comments and these comments, and now I think that’s clear.

      We’re all single issue voters sometimes. I certainly am. :)

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