Frank Chopp
Frank Chopp

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.

8 Replies to “Goldy: Chopp Behind R8A Shenanigans”

  1. I really don’t think it’s fair to call any attempt to dip into ST’s “pot of gold” a shakedown by WSDOT. ST has a close working relationship with WSDOT and relies on the agency to provide engineering and construction management. WSDOT is under the financial thumb of the State Legislature and must abide by their wishes. However, WSDOT under it’s current director has taken what would be seen from a political point of view an unpopular position in retiring ferries which she deemed a public safety hazard.

    1. Yea, more like the House Speaker and his allies directing WSDOT to conduct a shakedown.

      Given the likely fallout if the Speaker succeeds in raiding ST funds or in killing the agency I just don’t see how this ends well for him.

    1. O I get it. What’s actually interesting here is not that Frank Chopp is behind the shenanigans (which we probably could have guessed if we thought aobut it long enough) but that Frank Chopp is behind the shenanigans because he’s hell-bent on a tunnel.

      I’m in Japan so I’m slow on the uptake.

      1. What would be really nice is to get some proof of the speaker’s games. Make sure every elected official of every city and county in the ST district is well aware of it as well as every member of the legislature. Then make sure every group who endorsed the speaker in his last re-election is aware of it, especially environmental groups.

      2. Speaker Chopp seems to be supporting tunnels (plural) in the form of the viaduct deep bore replacement and the Montlake dipsy doodle. But I wouldn’t care to try and out maneuver (or out guess) Mr. Speaker. He’s left a long list of brides waiting at the alter. An untouchable position in the 43rd leaves him free to pull everybody’s strings.

      3. He’s not untouchable, especially with top-two, especially since he’s pissing off a number of key interest groups in his district.

        Mike McGinn, Carey Moon, Jim Street or any of Jamie Petersens primary opponents from 2006 would all be possibilities.

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