Sen. Dan Swecker

This morning, state Senator Dan Swecker (R-20, Lewis County) dropped a very short bill that probably won’t go anywhere, but I want to bring up to point out just how out of touch some of our legislators are with regional priorities and, well, the future in general. Despite the passage of Proposition 1 and ongoing negotiations to get East Link light rail built, Swecker seems to feel it’s a good idea to waste time and public money in a tightly scheduled session to tilt at windmills. The meat of the bill is simple:

A light rail system or any other rail fixed guideway system may not be constructed or operated on the Interstate 90 floating bridge.

We’ve written about this in the past, and I’ve read a lot more of the history in the meantime.

Given that most of the I-90 bridge was paid for by the feds under an agreement that the express lanes were for transit, and as that agreement was updated in 2004 to specify light rail, I have this question for the Senator:

If you’d like to break this agreement, how, exactly, do you plan to pay back the feds for the contribution they made? Inflation-adjusted, it would some $900 million. I suspect the cities involved, who only allowed the I-90 bridge to be built under this agreement, might have some mitigation requests as well.

A call into Senator Swecker’s office was not returned.

Update: It looks like Senator Val Stevens (R-39, North Cascades National Park) has also signed on. But why?

Update 2: Stevens’ office returned my call – saying the Senator declines to comment on why she signed on, and that I should talk to Swecker – who still hasn’t returned my call.

54 Replies to “Senator Swecker vs. East Link”

  1. Grasping at any straw, and following Tim E’s lead, these folks will stop at nothing and stoop to any level.

    1. I think an interesting question will be *which* folks. Let’s see if anyone else signs onto this bill.

      1. Monroe is way outside the Snohomish County subarea. And I’m pretty sure it’s not considered to be part of our MSA.

  2. Just so you know I got a newsletter from Senator Cheryl Pflug saying she supported a 520 route only and was 100% against the I-90 East Link route. So I would expect her to sign on.

  3. i remember reading something about Swecker being an anti-tax Teabagging supporter if that helps. play to your base!

    1. If he’s anti-tax, it seems like he wouldn’t want to incur the wrath of the federal government asking for their billion dollars back.

      1. If he’s anti-tax, then giving back the money would actually be right along his way of thinking, since the taxpayers would have ‘wasted’ their money on Interstate 90. Making Washington taxpayers pay back that money would be his twisted way of having justice.

    2. The “Tea Party” movement is big down in Lewis County. But that is really no surprise as it was one of the few places keeping the flame for the John Birch Society after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    1. That’s exactly the point. His constituents are far displaced from any place where transit might matter. Why does he think he gets to call the shots for a region that has already voted on ST2 and agreed to move forward?

  4. Lewis County is essentially the most backward county in our entire state (I should know, I’ve spent plenty of time there). As such, this doesn’t surprise me one bit.

  5. On a meta but related note, transit advocates and agencies should refuse to accept the notion that a “road” for the purposes of the state constitution is defined exclusively as rubber-wheeled vehicle lanes. Establish that fixed-guideway vehicles are still part of the roadway, and you render the whole I-90 funding argument moot.

    1. Every legislator knows you’d render it moot by doing that, so they wouldn’t vote for such a definition change.

      The legislature likes the I-90 valuation fight because they think they can get money from Sound Transit.

    2. The definition already doesn’t extend only to rubber-tired vehicles, what it requires is [b]public[/b] vehicular travel. Streetcars are explicitly included in vehicular travel.

      If your fixed-guideway rail cars shared a bit of public right-of-way at the ends of the run, but had an exclusive lane in the middle of the run, would they still be streetcars when they were on the bridge?

  6. So the folks from the rural areas, whom are sick of having Olympia and Seattle tell them “how to run their lives”, are telling an entire 2.5 million population who voted for and supports light rail (51% approval = 100% consent) how to run their lives? Hmm. Damn that democracy!

      1. The first thing that comes to mind is UGB-related issues that come up every time there’s a flood, with Olympia demanding Lewis County officials enforce some semblance of a UGB in accordance with the GMA and lots of Seattle-area media basically saying “it’s their own fault that they get flooded out, they should uproot and move somewhere more sustainable”.

        That probably irks them a bit.

      2. The Chehalis Valley is fairly broad its lower reaches (basically the Western part of Lewis County). For the most part any hill would need to be created.

        But the real problem is Lewis County continues to permit new development in some of the most flood prone areas of the county.

      3. That does sound like a problem. I mean, it’s clearly an issue when they ask for money for help after they flood…

      4. The ironic part is that if you go visit the old downtown area of chehalis, which is compact and walkable, its actually on higher elevation than the valley floor that always gets flooded. The founders of these cities were smarter than today’s councilmen and women.

    1. BTW the population of all of Lewis County is only 68,000. You could fit everyone who lives there in Qwest Field with room to spare.

  7. I am sure Sen. Swecker would go ballistic if Seattle DARED to mess with a project in his rural district.

    Btw – didn’t we taxpayers + Obama just re-pave I-5 from Olympia to PDX?

    I am sure Sen. Swecker and his free lunch eating district just HATE that pork project.

      1. Well a good thing to start with is just to look at his list of donors. Then see who he’s carried water for in past legislative sessions.

        I’m guessing though this is just one of those “Screw Seattle” things that is always popular with legislators from the more rural parts of the state.

        This could also be some sort of gambit to try to extort money out of Sound Transit for use of the I-90 center roadway. Even with tolls, rebuilding 520 is way short of money, why not try to grab that big pile of East sub-area funds ST is sitting on?

      2. No need to make a public records request for that. You can find it right here: When you get there search Daniel Swecker in 2008. John Stanton gave him over $2000, and his wife gave another $1300 or so… It’s perfectly within their rights, and I’m not suggesting there was any quid pro quo, but it certainly shows that Sen. Swecker is supported by some very anti-light rail people who don’t even live in his district.

  8. Anyone know if taxes from ST2 effect his district? That might be what stroked him the wrong way…

    1. I would imagine some of his eastern constituents drive into the ST2 district to do shopping, so there’s an indirect impact.

  9. Silly people, roads are for cars not trains, or you can take away my freeways when you pry them out of my cold dead fingers.

    One suspects he’s playing to his ill-informed base, some of whom probably have “Dino Rossi — don’t let seattle the election again” signs in their yards.

    This just drives home how disconnected taxes and services have become.

    1. You are almost required to have one of those signs if you live in Lewis County.

      And ill-informed is a great way to describe that area – many down there actually believe that their tax dollars go to support Seattle when, of course, it is King, Pierce, and Spokane counties that support much of the rural areas. Last time I checked I’m sure Lewis County doesn’t have the money to widen and re-pave I-5

  10. Interesting move… I suspect this is not fundamentally about East Link. I doubt anyone thinks this bill will survive when ST2, which included this project, passed with a strong majority, is funded and is creating jobs. Going on intuition, this just smells like a political gambit, negotiating ploy or bargaining chip of some kind.

    The configuration of I-90 would not seem to be an issue that is central to Senator Swecker’s district. Senator Swecker sat on the SR 520 legislative working group, a highly politicized process… There’s a lot of moving parts and a statewide funding crisis in transportation…

    Maybe it has to do with SR 99 instead of SR 520, or some project in the Senator’s district. But I suspect this figures into some larger strategy to play some folks in the Seattle metro area against others in order to get something else, conceived in conjunction with other legislators as part of some broader agenda. I suppose time will tell.

  11. Sen. Swecker is conservative, but also smart. I have heard him express a sound understanding of tolling.

    Ben: the 2002 update to the MOA on I-90 said high capacity transit, not specifically LRT.

    1. Jack, the 2004 amendment did explicitly define HCT as light rail, monorail, or a substantially equivalent system, as a clarification of the 1976 agreement’s “fixed guideway” terminology.

  12. Ha! Steven’s constituents are probably 90% dependent on either the Feds (either through employment, welfare, or military retirement) or the City of Seattle (through the Skagit hydro project)

    But those same people probably can’t make the connection in their head.

    1. I have the unfortunate Dis-Pleasure of being a constituent of Val, and for the record I do not rely on the Fed or the City of Seattle for my pay check.

      Please do not assume that because a majority of people in a district elected someone who is making a foolish decision, that everyone in that district is an idiot.

      Lor Scara

      1. I don’t agree with sad’s comment either.

        That said, the district does probably get significantly more in taxpayer spending than they pay in taxes, just because it costs more per capita for roads and electricity when people live a mile apart than when they live ten feet apart. That’s usually the case for lower density.

      2. Sorry, meant no offense – and I’m not saying that most of Steven’s constituents are idiots. Just that many people are unable to make the connection between their life and the good things that “big government” provides.

        Even if you don’t work for the Feds or Seattle, the quality of life for the entire Skagit valley has been greatly improved by the Skagit project by way of its flood control function. That’s about as “big government” as you can get.

      3. It’s density that makes people get it. When you can walk to a beautiful public library, your kids get decent school, your water is clean, your house is protected from burning down, your electricity stays on, and your roads and sidewalks get regular maintenance, you appreciate the investment.

  13. Swecker is a conservative but he is hardly anti-tax and mostly never ideological on transportation subjects, except after a visit with former Senator Jim Horn or another representative of Kemper Freeman.

    That’s no doubt what’s happening here.

    Swecker is the GOP go-to guy on transportation in Olympia these days, at least in the Senate. It is often his job to carry the party water even if he’s really more concerned about getting a traffic light for his district, which seems to be his real priority this year. He’s conservative for sure, but he’s a stand-up guy who represents a whole lot of people on the right wing outer edge.

    The bill does help explain why Republicans are scarce in Olympia. They have not been able to get elected anywhere near Lake Washington. One big reason: Kemper Freeman’s all-politics approach to transportation.

    Kemper’s iron fist, and rigid ideology on the topic, make it impossible to elect Republicans in places where the GOP once ruled.

    This bill is nothing more, than more of the same.

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