Washington State Capitol Building. Picture by swishphotos.
Washington State Capitol Building. Picture by swishphotos.

We’ve talked about about R8A and other legislature inference plenty over the last few days. It’s time for us to take action. We need to contact leaders in Olympia and tell them what we think:

  1. The state should fund, as promised, the two-way HOV lane project on I-90 so that light rail can be completed to the Eastside on time. East Link will be delayed for years without this funding.
  2. Sound Transit should receive funds for the three Regional Mobility grants which it was competitively awarded. ST won these grants because the projects are among the best transportation investments in the state.
  3. There is no need for a bureaucratic “asset assessment study” for light rail across I-90. A new study could only serve to delay building light rail across a bridge that has already been studied numerous times.
  4. The region voted overwhelmingly to support this light rail package. The legislature shouldn’t thwart the will of the voters.

Here’s a list of important transportation legislators:

The email address for your legislators can be found on the state legislature website, or you can use this form to automatically email your legislators based on your address. You can email Governor Gregoire on her website.

After the jump is the letter we’re sending out which reflects the above talking points. Feel free to change the text as you see fit and forward it to the above legislators as well as your own — let them know you’re paying attention.

Dear [Name of Legislator]-

I have been following the House and Senate transportation budgets and have been troubled by the questionable support for transit and particularly light rail to the Eastside. This light rail plan was approved overwhelmingly by voters last November.

As you know, when the Sound Transit board adopted the plan, the state committed to helping fund a portion of the HOV work on I-90 — work which is necessary to put light rail on the current express lanes of I-90. The two-way HOV lane project will also provided more reliable bus service and stronger incentives to carpool along the I-90 corridor. The project will cost the state just $24 million to finish, as the bulk of it is funded by Sound Transit. The current budgets do not fund this project, putting the Eastside connection at risk for massive delay.

The budget should provide the funding needed to complete light rail to the Eastside on schedule.

Additionally, there is no need for additional “studies” or “assessments” or delays for light rail along the I-90 corridor. We have done enough studies and there is no reason to delay this important investment for bureaucratic reasons. Transit infrastructure is one of the most effective ways to create jobs and that growth shouldn’t be subject to arbitrary delay.

WSDOT and Sound Transit should have the flexibility to move forward with light rail to the Eastside.

Finally, it is troubling to read about House’s usurping of a competitive grant process. Their budget strips Sound Transit’s grants from the Regional Mobility Grant program administered by WSDOT. These grants were committed after a competitive process and are necessary investments in Snohomish, Piece, and King counties.

The Senate budget’s complete funding of the the Regional Mobility Grants should be adopted.

While priorities need to be made during tough budget decisions, the state shouldn’t turn its back on transit plans that voters approved just months ago particularly in light of the massive investments made in so-called mega-projects — all of them roads. Sound Transit is facing similar budget issues that the state and most other levels of government are, and they cannot independently fund projects where the state had previously committed funds. Light rail to the Eastside, HOV lanes on I-90, and other transportation investments across the region will be severely delayed without the leadership we’ve come to expect and treasure in Olympia.

Thank you for your time,
[Your Name]

33 Replies to “Take Action: Mail Legislators About Light Rail to Bellevue”

  1. Does whoever controls the “Mass Transit Now” account on Twitter and the Facebook group read this blog? Can they send out a message too?

  2. Question: Do you have a list of the three Mobility Grants and what their scores were?

    I ask because I’m off the mind to separate each topic into a separate email so that they get 3 specific emails in their inboxes instead of one all-inclusive email.

    Just my 2 cents worth…

    1. The ST projects are more buses for routes going from Snohomish to King, the D-to-M crossing in Tacoma for Sounder, and some funding for R8A.

      1. Proceeding on the bridge conversion without fully spec’d engineering is financial malfeasance and undermines the credibility of Sound Transit as a public organization.

      2. R8A does not do anything to change the center roadway. Nothing, it will still be reversible lanes. The final engineering and construction for the addtional HOV lanes on the outer roadway is all part of the WSDOT project. The engineering and construction phases for each stage are all spelled out.

        R8A adds HOV lanes to the outer roadway. PERIOD. How does Sound Transit picking up 2/3rds of the cost equate to financial malfeasance or actually following through with promised funding undermine credibility?

  3. What about the state rail projects? Should we mention those as well? Walking away from billions in Federal HSR money is pretty stupid too.

    Not to mention that Pt. Defiance bypass is 3-fer. It helps intercity passenger rail, it helps Sounder, and it helps freight.

    1. Oh, Pt. Defiance Bypass will get some movement too, I can assure you. That stuff gets tossed around in supplementals.

  4. Sixth paragraph (beginning with “Finally”), third sentence; “Piece” should be “Pierce.”

  5. I just emailed my reps, including Mary Lou Dickerson, who sits on House Transportation Committee. Here’s a paragraph I added:

    I know that you sit on the transportation committee, and I’m hoping my words will reach the chair of that committee. Though I live in Ballard and will have little personal benefit from EastLink, I voted to tax myself (as a majority of the tri-county area residents did) to invest in this public asset. Please don’t let short sighted budget decisions get in the way of long-term public investment.

  6. Just heard the full Senate will be voting on their – less vindictive – version of the Transportation Budget today. House will be taking it up tomorrow or Friday.

    Since the two bills are different (Clibborn / Liias House version more hostile to transit) a conference committee will be called to synch both legislative houses’ bills. But before an official reconcilliation process is convened, amendments might be sponsored on the Senate floor to get their version more in line with Clibborn’s.

    It will be interesting to see which Senators would be willing to walk off the Clibborn gang-plank. I hope TVW is covering the Senate floor debate today.

  7. Could you guys please put up a fact sheet, white paper, or series of talking points on the East Link/Sound Transit issues, summarizing what’s been going on in all these separate posts? Something along these lines:

    –East Link was approved last year by X% of the voters.
    –The House transportation budget defunds the crossing of the I-90 bridge and puts roadblocks in the way of the voter-approved expansion.
    –The House transportation budget also eliminates state funding for a series of rail improvement projects that were approved through a competitive grant process.
    –Eliminating state funding for the rail projects puts federal stimulus funding in serious jeopardy.

    1. This post attempts cover the issues regarding transit and specifically Sound Transit. An additional rail post describing what exactly is going on would be nice too.

  8. Just got a response (by phone!) from Rep. Carlyle’s legislative assistant. He said that Carlyle was shocked at what’s going on, and that they’re working on getting a solution in place. He views it as an intergovernmental squabble, and one where the legislature is trying to pull funds away from another authority it perceives to be cash rich.

    Well, at least we know where he stands. Good on you, Representative Carlyle.

    1. Thanks for the call to my office today, Ryan.

      Hey folks,

      Keep your emails and calls to legislators coming and don’t let up!! It’s very important that you stay engaged in this process as the sausage-making of the next few days and week(s) moves forward. A group of hard-core, pro-transit legislators is doing all we can but you’re the juice that keeps us rocking as we try and find a solution among the various parties.

      Your partner in service,

      Reuven Carlyle
      State Representative
      36th Legislative District–the heart, soul, passion and spirit of Seattle

  9. Just had an email exchange with Senator Kohl-Welles. She noted that the budget amendment from yesterday in the Senate, and explained that the Senate budget does in fact fund the Regional Mobility Grant program, but that R8A funding is delayed under the Senate budget waiting on the airspace rights negotiation, as well as the “asset assessment.”

    I pushed back on the assessment as needless delay, but I think overall Senator Kohl-Welles is with us on this.


    1. The airspace rights negotiation is needless delay too. R8A needs to happen even if East Link never gets built. In fact it needs to happen before 520 can be redone or we’re in for some serious gridlock.

      1. Bernie, so I’m clear on this issue, R8A is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for getting East Link done?


      2. R8A completion is certainly required for East Link to get done. There are other issues that need to be resolved for sure but in Sound Transits construction schedule R8A is a gating issue to stay on schedule.

      3. WADOT and Sound Transit still need to negotiate the terms for East Link’s use of the Center Roadway. What will the lease rate be? What liability and maintenance costs will Sound Transit assume, etc.

  10. Response from Clibborn:

    “The R8A ramp will be built by 2014 and my budget includes $10 million this biennium for preliminary engineering that’s needed to meet the 2014 completion date. We also need to ascertain the value of the center lanes that Sound Transit will take over. This bridge was built with federal funds, and the federal government requires us to get a fair value for these lanes. Some have suggested the lanes are not worth any money, while others have suggested they’re worth $2.8 billion. It’s going to be somewhere in between, and I think the answer will be much closer to the lower end of the range. The study will give us the answer to this question. Once we know the value of the center lanes, we will be able to negotiate a final agreement to turn them over to Sound Transit to put light rail across the I-90 bridge.”

    1. Well it is good that she responded, however given her track record pardon me if I’m a bit skeptical of her real commitment to R8A or allowing Sound Transit to use the center roadway.

    2. I received the same response. Can anybody explain to me why this will take until 2014? Stage 1 took about 2 years to complete in a booming economy. It seems like there would be plenty of engineering and construction resources around now to get stages 2 & 3 done in less time and either hit the budget or go under budget…

      Am I missing something here or is she simply committing to a 2014 completion date?

      1. This schedule is in accordance with what WSDOT has on there website and consistent with what ST has been saying. Note on the ST website,

        Due to funding limitations the project will be implemented in stages. Each stage of the project provides viable and independent transit and transportation benefits that can be funded and constructed as financing becomes available.

        From what I see reading the latest amended house transportation budget there is only $4.6M allocated to design (stages 2 and 3) and construction for stage 2 [page 47, section (27]. Half a million of that is earmarked for study of rail feasibility. The real question is will there be enough money to keep on schedule for the next two years? I don’t know if anybody really knows that for sure [((and $4,908,000)), $2,611,000 makes it appear there was a $2.3M cut]. One thing is for sure and that is that studying rail is a complete waste if there isn’t sufficient funding to complete R8A.

        Now is not the time to be doing yet another feasibility study ** . Now is the time to pour concrete while construction bids are coming in 20-30% below engineering estimates. R8A has value even if the center roadway isn’t converted to rail. The only thing that really matters at this point is the final engineering of the rail on the bridge. This is completely on ST’s nickel. If the legislature wants to come back in 3-4 years and commission a design review by WSDOT of the plans that might make sense. Until then, just build the damn road!

        ** It’s hard to know if the $550,000 in the budget is money already spent on the studies that have been done. There are a number of items in the bill (like stage 1) which are already complete. Making this more confusing is that in the LEAP document referenced it appears there is no funding for R8A at all. Any certified bean counters in the house? I sure can’t find the $10M in this biennium Rep. Clibborn speaks of in the above comment.

    3. I’m wondering how the term “value” is defined. To whom is it a value to? FHWA? Our Region? Is it a value of regional mobility? It sure seems that it would be valuable to build light rail here instead of HOV lanes as it would dramatically increase the transportation capacity of the corridor.

      1. To at least some “value” means pulling a backdoor raid on Sound Transit’s funds to pay for other road projects. See Rep. Chopp’s bright idea about charging Sound Transit anywhere from one to two billion for use of the center roadway. Someone should probably tell him that the Federal government will want about 90% of that.

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