Senator Fred Jarrett
Senator Fred Jarrett

On the Senate Democrats’ blog, and presumably on the Seattle Times shortly, Fred Jarrett offers an attempt to blame someone else, somewhere else, a long time ago, for the active attack on Sound Transit we’re seeing today.

It’s barely worth picking apart. He tries to build transit credentials by claiming he helped develop Sound Move. Actually, amusingly, he says Sound Move created Sound Transit in 1996 – he talks about all this ‘hard work’ he did, but missed that Sound Transit was created in 1993, and they put Sound Move on the ballot.

So, let me set the record straight. All this nonsense about RTID and Roads and Transit is a way to distract from the fact that there isn’t money in either the House or Senate budget for R8A, despite the state committing to funding it the year after Roads and Transit failed. If money in transportation is in “short supply”, where’d the increase in viaduct funding from $2.4 billion to $3.14 billion come from? How about the $1.5 billion for Tacoma HOV lanes? Nobody wants to explain why $70 million of the federal stimulus package went to I-405, but the same bill took money out of R8A – when the region voted against funding 405 expansion, and for funding light rail.

He writes: “Sound Transit and the WSDOT have a plan to resolve these issues and meet all of the East Link project milestones.” Is that so? Where is this plan? Or is saying this just a delaying tactic? And RTID would have funded $33 million? Doesn’t Sound Transit’s new increase in funding of $45 million more than cover those lost funds? I’d imagine it does. And this BRT comment from the Senator? The 1976 memorandum of agreement says ‘fixed guideway’, and that’s not BRT.

And as for the Senator’s gas tax comments? He says “How do we deal with the constitutional prohibition on using gas tax funds to construct I-90 for transit?” HOV lanes are a highway project. Stage 1, as the Senator notes, was paid for partially by the state – with gas tax money. HOV projects around the state are routinely paid for with gas taxes. This is nothing new, and the Senator should know that. Then he asks “How do we negotiate waivers with the Federal Highway Administration for the federal funds used to build an interstate for transit purposes?” The federal government funded these lanes with the requirement that they be used for transit purposes.

The state has no stake in the I-90 express lanes past R8A. They were over 90% paid for by the federal government, and there is no legal avenue that justifies the state ‘negotiating’ for any money before giving them up. There are agreements in place that govern these transactions already, as I’ve mentioned before. I’ll be following up on this specifically soon.

It’s not hard to understand these issues – but it is hard to understand how this can be so clear to Larry Phillips and Dow Constantine, and so confusing to Senator Jarrett. The voters came through with a decision and backed it up with funding, and the state thinks this is a bargaining chip. I think all of our readers can see through this op-ed.

30 Replies to “Senator Jarrett Peddles A Contrived Story”

  1. Yiikes. That op-ed doesn’t come across well. If Sen Jarrett wrote it, he appears to be grasping at straws. If a speechwriter wrote it, they either don’t pay well in Olympia – or Sen Jarrett needs a new speechwriter.

    I don’t get why these legislators don’t just come out of the closet and try to reason with us. If you’re skeptical of light rail, and don’t really want to see it cross the lake – just say so! Same with the State DOT. It doesn’t seem like we are going to get anywhere if the rail opponents/skeptics continue to refuse to show their cards. Cut the passive-aggressive game playing, and out your grievances!

    Rep Eddy is nice enough to monitor this blog, but I’m frustrated with her, too. In her opposition to Prop 1 last year, she always referred to “better alternatives to light rail” but never identified what those alternatives were. And she still won’t. Do we elect these people to beat around the bushes and play games, or, do we elect them to make decisions?

    1. Max: I’m sorry that this has taken so long, and I probably won’t be able to get back on here very often, so email me at if you want to continue the conversation after you read this.

      MY preference has been to run dedicated, grade-separated BRT across BOTH Lake Washington bridges, sooner rather than later (could be done fastest on I-90, but also immediately on the SR520 re-build). Like 5 minute headways, back and forth, express, quasi-express level service. Yes, it’s not only cheaper and faster for crossing the water — but it’d also free up an enormous amount of money for light rail EXTENSION N-S on the eastside and NORTH to Northgate and beyond (yeah, I know there are sub-area equity problems with part of my vision, but whatever – I’d like to believe that we can fix problems like that). I’ve usually expressed my routing preference as Redmond to Renton, but my transit staff friends tell me that Woodinville to Bellevue may be more rider-ready. Who knew! Eventually, rail would wrap around the south end and connect w/the SeaTac-to-Northgate line. (This is, I think, still part of the longer range vision, sort of.)

      I am NOT on the ST board, never was, and I don’t beat around the bushes or play games. During much of the formative years of ST, I was running Suburban Cities Association, which wasn’t part of any of the transportation discussion — except for the Regional Transit Committee, which we did staff. I did campaign for both the original RTA proposals, back in the 1990s, and care very much about getting this system built. I am completely frustrated with the existing leadership, with how Ron Sims went about naming/running the ST board, with Mayor Greg Nickels … because the whole discussion seems to be focused on that extraordinarily expensive ID-B’vue linkage, and I think that isn’t nearly delivering on the promise, on our responsibility to voters to supply a fixed-guideway transit system ASAP. And I stand by that assessment.

      The existing East Link routing is really cool, if you own land, a condo or a business in downtown Seattle or B’vue, but IMHO it doesn’t do nearly as much to create a transit system as could’ve been done with other scheduling, priorities. And the issues w/the I-90 bridge were predicted … and dismissed as “no problem.” Well, duh.

      Again, email me directly at, if you want to pursue this discussion further. I don’t have as much time for blogs right now as I would like. /deb

      1. Rep. Eddy, I think now that a routing was selected by voters it’s not constructive to the process to talk about alternatives. Switching to a dual BRT network would be a huge shame for ST because it would be so radically different from the proposal that went to the ballot. You probably recognize this reality :)

        Given that, the best thing now is to accept the voters’ will and push for Eastside rail down the road. Of course, a few billion from the state could get it done without a vote :)

  2. Well, I was not planning to support Jarett anyway. I like Phillips personially(He always responds to my e-mails within 2-3 days after I send them. The third fastest of the council that respond. Behind only Kathy Lambert, average less than 12 hours, and Regan Dunn, one day or less. that is better than my own member Julia Patterson who has an avrage of two to therr weeks.) but as a Republican I probially won’t support him. I am waiting to see if any one runs who is open to spliting up King County.

  3. Jarrett has written:

    R8A, however, is one of the few unfunded projects we understand how to fund and Sound Transit’s East Link is central to the funding.

    But, first some history. The I-90 center roadway was funded with a combination of federal funds and state gas taxes. Gas taxes are constitutionally protected and cannot be used to fund transit projects, and the federal funds come with strings attached to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). It is critical all three parties (ST, the state and FHWA) have a sense of urgency regarding the negotiations driven by the ST schedule for construction of light rail across the floating bridge.

    Funding R8A is dependent on these negotiations. I have no doubt that the ST share of R8A, the compensation for FHWA funding of the center roadway and tolls (HOT lanes or full tolling of general purpose lanes) will provide adequate funding for the project and on a timeline which will support East Link schedules.

    Is there a bill on this subject coming up?

    1. The compensation would be determined by WSDOT at direction of the legislature. That’s what the ‘asset assessment’ the House budget requires would do – provide a cost. There’s no bill, it won’t be done in the open.

      The other reason there’s no bill is that it’s probably not legal for WSDOT to charge ST for use of a structure the state didn’t pay for.

      Funding R8A has nothing to do with these negotiations. It’s nothing compared to the $1 billion Chopp said he wants for those center lanes. The proviso in the House transportation budget is the issue here – it can derail the whole light rail project.

  4. The last line is:

    East Link will cross Lake Washington on schedule.

    The piece seems pretty well written to me. It’s not an easy subject. It is a test case on public funding of interstate [highway] projects. There are State and federal laws that come into play which I don’t think have yet been tested in court. ST presents their case very effectively but it’s only one side of the issue. No doubt there were commitments made regarding East Link that are now being brought into question but the question is were those agreements legal and legally binding. If either of those criteria fails to be proven true then …

    1. Uh, no the question is not whether those agreements were legal or binding. The question is why the state won’t fund R8A. If the funding is there and the feds say, “You can’t do it” then that’s one thing — but it’s a version of reality unlikely to occur. Instead, what almost certainly will happen is the feds will say, “You can do this!” and the funding won’t be there. That’s what the debate is about. RTID funded this project and it wasn’t prevented from going to the ballot.

      The funding being there does not mean that the rule of law goes out the window and ST doesn’t have to do its EIS, WSDOT doesn’t have to get clearance, and the FHWA doesn’t have to sign off. In fact, all of those things must still occur. And they will — light rail will be approved by the appropriate agencies to run across I-90. But the funding may not be there.

      It’s a $212 mn project, with $170 mn funded by Sound Transit.

      1. The FHWA isn’t exactly a worry. They signed on to rail across the bridge decades ago.

  5. This comment would make it appear that all of this fuss is a big whoop about nothing…. or else they saw what kind of a hornets nest they just kicked and decided to put it back where they found it.

    1. The state certainly hasn’t backed off. Jarrett’s just trying to spin the mess he signed on for.

  6. “Nothing could be further from the truth. The state’s Department of Transportation and Sound Transit are engaged in discussions about how to build R8A. These discussions focus mostly on technical questions such as “How do we deal with the constitutional prohibition on using gas tax funds to construct I-90 for transit?” And “How do we negotiate waivers with the Federal Highway Administration for the federal funds used to build an interstate for transit purposes?” Both of these are solvable problems, but take time to resolve.

    Sound Transit and the WSDOT have a plan to resolve these issues and meet all of the East Link project milestones. But, in the meantime, some believe the state’s commitment has wavered and the legislature cannot allow that perception to remain.

    Consequently, I introduced amendments to our transportation budget Wednesday to make clear our commitment to both fund the state’s share of R8A and to meet the milestones required to meet our joint commitment to the public. The amendment was adopted by the Senate 29-18 and the budget adopted with a 41-6 vote.”

    1. That amendment just makes things worse – it’ll be removed for redundancy, as this is already covered in state and federal law. It’ll take the heat off Clibborn’s amendment, which will likely stand.

      His ‘gas tax’ and ‘waivers’ story is nonsense. Stage 1 was covered by the gas tax, stages 2 and 3 are just the same. And a waiver? The FHWA already said these center lanes are for transit.

      1. His amendment didn’t make things worse. Saying a pledge to fight the matter in conference is better than an amendment is questionable — is Jarrett even going to be involved in conference?

        The clear intent of the amendment is to strike Clibborn’s language from the final bill. If his gets removed as redundant, fine, but that would only occur if his language is first adopted over Clibborn. It doesn’t remove the heat from Clibborn, it is the direct pressure that’s will be needed to be resolved in conference. By offering nothing to resolve in conference, Clibborn’s amendment could win by default.

  7. Jarrett was an active representative in the creation of Sound Transit via the Regional Transit Authority and before that the Joint Regional Policy Committee, in the late 80’s.

    I don’t recall the exact dates either, but he was certainly an active leader. Others include Seattle Councilmember Jim Street, Maggie Fimia, later of the KC Council, Doug Southerland last of DNR, Tacoma Councilman Paul Miller, Martha Choe and a couple of others whose name escapes me at the moment, Bruce ____ from Bellevue.

    Chris Vance and Rob McKenna were the loyal opposition, in the mid-90’s period McKenna was the sole surviving voice and was constructive throughout. Under his leadership buses were given priority for Eastside service in ST1.

    1. Buses were given priority, when we were sitting on a bridge built for rail. Certainly sounds constructive to me! ;)

      1. It’s a sub-area decision Ben, not yours.

        FWIW, politically I’m much more in line with what the Eastside is today than what it was then.

        Recall also that the downtown Seattle tunnel was ‘built’ for rail as well, but took a rather expensive and time consuming service disruption to actually get it so.

        We need to make sure those conversion costs are nailed down for the bridge before the go ahead is given. That’s just good business, not some contrived plot to undermine Sound Transit.

        An assertion to the contrary is what would undermine the agency.

      2. Was the downtown tunnel conversion over budget? Not that I recall. Sound Transit did exactly what they said they were going to do within the planned schedule for that project. Sure it would have been nice if the rails hadn’t needed to be replaced nor the roadway in the stations lowered but the remainder of the conversion project would still have been necessary.

        I have no doubt the actual costs of the bridge conversion will fall within the range estimated by Sound Transit. Now delaying the project or demanding an outrageous payment for the center roadway will lead to cost overruns but neither of those are engineering problems.

        At this point we are simply asking the legislature to fund two-way HOV on I-90 which will have benefits even if East Link is never built. Furthermore we are asking that WADOT not be barred from negotiating the costs and terms of turning over the I-90 center roadway to Sound Transit.

        Sound Transit will assume full responsibility for any cost overruns or schedule overruns involved in converting the center roadway for Link.

    2. Interesting that Fimia was involved in creating the RTA considering she was one of the big anti-rail people later on.

      McKenna has been anti-transit his whole career. Thanks to him and Vance Metro has the stupid 20/40/40 rule. Hopefully we can manage to keep him from becoming Governor.

      1. Yeah, “involved with” in this case means “trying to make it a bus agency”.

      2. Yea, I forget some of the early RTA backers were pushing for doing everything with buses.

        When RTA/Sound Transit decided on rail for some corridors those same people became critics.

  8. In 1993 the JRPC (joint regional planning council) adopted a system plan which was then carried forward by the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority under the power created in this bill:

    After voter approval in 1996, the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (whew) was renamed “Sound Transit”.

    In any event, I recall that Jarret WAS indeed heavily involved in the early planning under the JRPC and even though we might not agree with his stance on this particular issue today, the work carried out in the early 90’s led directly to sound transit and a preference for rail in the region.

    1. He didn’t have that preference for rail – he’s been quite clear on preferring buses, as were a number of the other participants.

      I haven’t been able to find the joint regional policy committee’s plan. I’ll edit that section, though, thank you for pointing this out.

      1. Its a huge document, but there is a 1993 EIS available at the library. This would be the EIS for the original +160 mile rail system plan. The 1995 and 1996 votes were essentially slimed down versions of this plan.

  9. Jarrett’s outline of the birth of ST is pretty fair. He was a leader on both the Metro Council and the JRPC. The sound move measure in 1996 did call for conversion of the I-90 center roadway to a two-way busway. The 1976 MOA has been replaced. the new agreement cites the more generic high capacity transit.

    The objective ought to be implementation of R8A as soon as possible, well in advance of east Link LRT.

    All the governments are short of transportation funds.

    Tooley’s Bruce was Councilmember Laing. I doubt Fimia was a leader that early. She began to serve as a appointee on the Metro Council in early 1992. Councilmembers Choe, Street, and Laing were leaders. Choe’s legislative aide was Murray, now 43rd District state senator.

    Stefan’s incorrect about McKenna and Vance and 40-40-20. Patterson replaced Vance. That ratio was established in about 2003 after they left the Council. It is not an elephant in the room, but a mouse that folks make too much of. The basic problem is that there is too little new service subsidy, not its allocation between the subareas. There are good transit improvements to make in all three subareas. Those of you who work in Overlake see good loads on routes 230, 245, and 253. For Seattle, 20 percent of something (plus the partnership program) was better than 34 percent of nothing. Would the Transit Now tenth have been put on the ballot without 40-40-20?

  10. As usual, eddiew (Metro planner)is technically correct, but misses the larger point. Jarrett is now an obstructionist to East Link, which eddiew doesn’t support. So if you support rail to the eastside, don’t support Jarrett.

    And Patterson owns 40-40-20, not Vance. But Vance and McKenna are largely responsible for the stupid subareas in the first place. Very few other major systems drive service by such stupid ham-handed formulas. And McKenna is also responsible for ST’s subarea equity formula as well.

    As for eddie’s query, “Would the Transit Now tenth have been put on the ballot without 40-40-20?” Who knows? I do know that South King still didn’t vote for it, the eastside barely did, and as usual Seattle drove the proverbial bus to pass it.

  11. reality?:

    the subareas and the allocation by percentage pre date McKenna and Vance; they were set up by the former Metro Council in about 1992. The main suburban debater was Councilmbmer Paul Barden. His initial position was that no new service would go to Seattle until the suburbs caught up. The main Seattle debater was Councilmember Jane Noland.

    to get new reveue, measures must also pass the Legislative body; it needs five votes there before it goes to the electorate.

    equity is a topic of discussion in many public policy areas. smart decisions can be made within each subarea.

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