Earlier this month we asked readers to reach out to legislators to make sure that Link light rail to the Eastside was able to be delivered on schedule. The proposed budget had stripped funding work on two-way HOV lanes across I-90 (called R8A), work which is necessary to build East Link on schedule. It looks like your emails worked!
The House came through today and funded R8A by an amendment (pdf) offered by Rep. Clibborn (D-Mercer Island). Clibborn, chair of the Transportation Committee, had earlier shifted funding away from this budget but told Seattle Transit Blog that her change of heart came about when she “found out that we needed to do the engineering in this budget in order not to get behind on the R8A ramp.”
Also adopted was Rep. Simpson’s amendment clarifying the negotiating process (pdf) for light rail use of the I-90 center lanes. This amendment was offered in contrast to dramatic language in the proposed budget which excluded Sound Transit from the valuation of those lanes. Simpson’s (D-47th) amendment brings Sound Transit in the process, states that negotiations on these lanes must conclude this year, and doesn’t prevent WSDOT from signing the final EIS. A much better piece of legislation is the result. (We’ll have more on these lanes in the coming weeks.)
This blog has long made the case that Rep. Clibborn has long been opposed to Link crossing I-90, so we hope that this is the first sign of a House that is friendlier toward transit — perhaps due to advocacy pressure. One legislator described our outreach campaign as “a deluge of emails set off by bloggers,” but we think it’s important that transit advocates let the state know how important voter-approved light rail projects are to the region.