Update: Andrew points out that Ben made a fairly similar point two weeks ago.
As we’ve reported on the R8A saga, we’ve focused on the agency of Mercer Island Representative Judy Clibborn, based on her sponsorship of various legislative items, past statements skeptical of Link on I-90, position as chair of the House Transportation Committee, and service to a constituency that has a vocal minority opposed to light rail.
Today, however, Goldy at Horsesass reports that the ultimate culprit may be House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43rd), in an attempt to raid Sound Transit funds to build his preferred (expensive) SR 520 bridge option.
I can’t say anything intelligent about Goldy’s sources in Olympia, but I can add that the political economy of this makes a lot of sense, in spite of the North Korea-style margins by which Prop 1 won in Chopp’s District. After all, you have a fairly large number of voters and interest groups clustered around (or with a view of) the Montlake interchange, and 100% of them care very strongly about what that interchange looks like while having little regard for costs incurred by the state. Moreover, a larger constituency just wants to get the SR520 bridge done, and the more money that’s thrown at the project the quicker that’s going to happen.
Against that, you have a relatively diffuse group in the district that’s excited to take light rail to the Eastside. If this kind of thing had flown under the radar, a delay to East Link may very well have been framed as Sound Transit incompetence, while important 43rd district interests would have gotten their goodies. All in all, it’s a win-win for Chopp and a loss for regional voters and taxpayers who want a comprehensive transit system.
Goldy’s right, however, that any shakedown of ST by WSDOT is a straight transfer of dedicated transit funds to roadbuilding, and should be viewed as such.