I-90 Floating Bridge
Photo by flickr user Jeff Blucher

Goldy at Slog has done some careful reading of I-1125, Tim Eyman’s latest initiative and found this attack on East Link buried in the text:

NEW SECTION. Sec. 3. State government, the department of transportation, and other agencies may not transfer or use gas-tax- funded or toll-funded lanes on state highways for non-highway purposes.

For background, I-1125 is primarily concerned with tolls and what the state can do with tolling revenue and would mean bad things for both roads and transit. I-1125 would eliminate variable tolling, and prohibit tolls raised on a road to be used for anything but the construction of that road. However, the abpve language is particularly scary for East Link; the new provision would prohibit the state from transfering the I-90 center lanes to Sound Transit for East Link. Goldy noticed Kemper Freemans sizeable donation to the I-1125 campaign and reads between the lines:

Of course, that is a section specifically designed to block the use of I-90’s center lanes for Sound Transit’s East Link light rail crossing. It’s what Freeman’s lawyers argued and lost in court, and it no doubt helped inspire Freeman to donate $25,000 to I-1125, the campaign’s largest contribution to date (if you don’t count the indecipherable transfers from Eyman’s other committee).

It’s scary to think that the voters in the Central Puget sound can approve a transportation system and one man with a strange vendetta against transit can help give voters in the rest of the state the ability to undo that decision. Let’s hope I-1125 doesn’t pass.

65 Replies to “Eyman’s Attack on East Link”

  1. Since the agreement to transfer the lanes would pre-date this initiative, is it possible that it would be unaffected by this provision? If not, is it possible to explicitly declare that a transit project that provides an alternative to driving on a highway IS a highway use?

    1. I would love to support legislation that explicitly declared that all forms of mass transit are considered highway uses. But would that require a constitutional amendment?

    2. Seems obvious we need to get this deal done ASAP . . . .

      If there’s any question about DOT’s “authority” it can be cleared up now, while the legislature’s in session. I’ve got a call in to Ed Murray’s office, along the lines of “how about a statute where the legislature declares the route can be turned over to the transit agency?” I’ll report on what I find out . . . .

  2. Variable tolls a closer approximation to market based road use- so if Eyman is against them, that means he’s a socialist.

    1. Not a socialist, because the scale isn’t Free Market Socialist it’s Free Market Command Economy.

      So Eyman is a sort of collectivist anarchist, which isn’t the same thing as socialist.

  3. Doesn’t that section cause trouble in the construction of future vessels for Washington State Ferries? Will they be able to have any passenger accommodations?

    And what about sound walls? They are not a “highway-purpose”. Aren’t they sometimes built on a portion of the (Gas-tax-funded) Emergency Lane?

    1. Sound walls are part of highway noise mitigation to surrounding neighborhoods. It’s part of impact outlined in the environmental reports. Think of sound walls being similar to the creation of more impervious surface requiring new detention ponds. They’re not highway related, but the highway causes the requirement to reduce peak runoff.

  4. Is anyone surprised anymore with this guy? He kicks and screams EVERY time the Tri-County area votes for some transit-related thing, then tries to use the entire state to tell us we can’t do it to ourselves. Remember his attempt to pry open the HOV lanes (a thing unique to Seattle and Vancouver) by having the whole state vote on it? Yeah, lets just throw away all that ST money…

  5. I would hope that section would bring down this bill. It should be easy to raise a campaign of “I-1125 kills light rail”. We all voted for light rail, so one would think we actually want it.

    1. Ah, I didn’t realize this was a statewide vote. That’s a different story. The rest of WA loves to tell the Seattle area what we can do with our own money.

      1. I expect this initiative to be throughly trounced in King County. The rest of the state is another matter, but Eyman has a laughable track record in recent years.

      2. Just remember, there are 4 million voters in the Sea-Tac-Everett area, and only 2 million in the entire rest of the state. If we focus a campaign push on Snohomish and Pierce counties, it should go down.

        Campaining against these damn things is hard, though, even around the Sound. They’re worded to sound reasonable to the typical voter with no knowledge of the issues – educating people on the damage that would be done is not something you can do with a simple slogan.

  6. This is why I think the Puget Sound area should just secede from the rest of the state. What do they do for us, exactly? Besides making it illegal to buy alcohol at the store?

    1. This is ridiculous, of course. The western part of the state needs the eastern part, and vice versa.

      1. Well, the eastern part needs us as a source of tax money to use on things like roads, airports, power infastructure, schools, etc. And the western part needs the eastern part for wheat and hops to make beer.

      2. And the western part needs the eastern part for wheat and hops to make beer.

        Because if they were their own state they would never sell us wheat, hops or apples. Right?

        I mean, they never export those abroad or sell them to businesses in other states, right? That’s why beer in Oregon and California sucks so bad, because they have to grow their own hops and they just don’t have the climate for it. Right?

        Wait, what exactly do we need them for again?

      3. [Jer] which is my problem with the way the Senate is cut up. I suppose we could break the Seattle area into 3 states and end up with a net positive of 2 Democratic senate seats.

        Anyway, seems like a very minor reason to stay together.

      4. Are you really suggesting drawing borders along cultural or economic lines? This isn’t the middle east.

      5. Rather than create a new state, it would make more sense for Eastern Washington to be incorporated into Idaho.

        The western part does not need the eastern part for anything. free-trade across state lines would happen anyway. If we split, tey can have a tax structure that makes sense for a rural state and pays for their rural needs, and we can have a tax structure that makes sense for an urban/suburban state and pays for our urban/suburban needs.

  7. Mr. Eyman doesn’t just have a strange vendetta against transit, he is ideologically opposed to public commons particularly when money is raised through taxation to support them. It’s easy to run a platform to “cut taxes” and to demonize public servants for “wasteful spending” but what he never tells his supporters is the roads you drive on, the schools your kids attend, the clean water you drink, the parks you enjoy, etc are all negatively affected by his initiatives.

    1. The funny thing is I suspect Eyman would be one of the first ones whining if say the City of Mukelteo got rid of its police or fire department, even if it meant he was paying less in taxes.

      OTOH if Seattle has to lay off police officers or close fire stations because of his latest brain-fart that is just too bad. Those bloated big-city union bureaucrats need to cut waste and learn to be more efficent.

  8. I don’t think this initiative has a chance of passing and if it did would be thrown out by the courts for dealing with more than one subject. It’s classic Eyman who “wins” either way. As the Times described him Eyman is a “professional initiative promoter.” What disturbs me is the quote from State Treasurer Jim McIntire:

    I-1125 “would effectively kill” completion of the Highway 520 project, because the state needs some future I-90 toll to close a $2 billion gap and complete the Montlake interchange and Portage Bay bridge in Seattle.

    I’m doubtful of I-90 tolls ever being imposed and if they are even more skeptical of any sort of deal that would raise $2B to fund 520. If there truly is no other funding source then the money spent on early construction really is a “sunk cost.” Maybe the State shouldn’t be simultaneously attempting to build two unfunded mega projects. Let’s see, no funding, no EIS, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

      1. Both mega projects can move forward with the phased approach, which they’re doing. In the case of SR 520, this means replacing the floating bridge, landings and eastside corridor, but not the westside.

        In the case of AWV, it means replacing the southern mile (Holgate to King), while working out details for the central waterfront.

        What’s the benefit? Significantly reduced inflation costs/risks… not to mention increased public safety.

      2. I don’t see how the new bridge would work if the the west side isn’t completed. The new bridge is going to be some 100 feet north of the existing bridge. Don’t know if that’s centerline to centerline or “open water” between the bridges but I guessing the later since working much closer would be difficult and might endanger the existing bridge.

    1. Also the new floating bridge will have HOV lanes and a bike/ped path, and the Western highrise doesn’t have room for them.

      I suppose it’s possible they could end up just going to Montlake and then not replacing the Portage Bay bridge or the I-5 interchange.

      1. So the sidewalk will end in the middle of the lake??? That takes the cake. I could imagine an enterprising canoe-ferry taking pedestrains from the end of the sidewalk to the Seattle shore.

        But I did read that the bridge is designed to connect to either the current or the new western approach, so they have it figured out somehow.

  9. IF, and I’ll repeat it IF, this measure qualifies for the ballot AND passes it’ll be too late. The deal between WSDOT and ST will be finalized in a month or two. After that the contracts clause will prevent ANY legislation (including I-1125) from impairing it.

    1. My thinking also. Thanks for the professional confirmation. Courts don’t like ex-post-facto law.

  10. Unless Eyman gets enough signatures for an initiative that asks voters to approve removing himself from the State of Washington by any means necessary, I would never vote for any of his initiatives both on grounds of principle and logic. He has never passed or wanted to pass anything that has helped Washington State get to where it needs to go to make Washington the liveable state most of us here want it to be.

  11. is this true?

    agencies may not transfer or use gas-tax- funded or toll-funded lanes on state highways for non-highway purposes………….

    is transit considered not reducing or regulating traffic flow on highways?? not a highway purpose iow??

    1. Here’s how it works —

      RCW 47.01.260(1) imposes an affirmative obligation on WSDOT (a state agency) to “improve . . . and maintain state highways”. Under Sound Transit’s plan, the I-90 corridor bridges, tunnels, roadbeds, and ramps would be torn up immediately and could not be used again as highways. That’s why WSDOT can not transfer that highway infrastructure to ST – it would not be maintained as state highway (train use is not highway use).

      What does that mean about Eyman’s new initiative? It just means he’s trying to slap a band-aid on something that’s not a problem. It doesn’t matter what his initiative says, WSDOT does not have the right to transfer that infrastructure to ST.

      Just ask Paula Hammond – she’ll tell you.

      1. That’s why WSDOT isn’t transferring the infrastructure to ST. It’s granting them an airspace lease from the surface of the roadway to the sky. The property remains in possession of WSDOT, with the important implication that when the bridge reaches the end of its useful life that WSDOT gets to make the call about what to do with it.

      2. ” It’s granting them an airspace lease from the surface of the roadway to the sky.”

        The document is called an “airspace” lease, but it grants 40-year rights (that is, beyond the useful remaining life of the infrastructure) that are subterranean to the heavens. We know that because the assistant AG who argued for Hammond and Gregoire at the 9/16/10 hearing in the Supreme Court said so. He was asked about what the term “airspace lease” meant, and he was very clear it was for all the highway infrastructure. That makes sense – ST would have to remove the road surface, drill down to sink the overhead cantenary supports, and build up a level trackbed on the bridge (for example). That trackbed isn’t going to hover over the existing road surface; that road surface would be torn up.

        Seriously, the reason Hammond hasn’t declared that highway infrastructure surplus is she lacks statutory authority to do that. Ask McKenna, or Gregoire for that matter. They’ll tell you I’m right.

      3. “Seriously, the reason Hammond hasn’t declared that highway infrastructure surplus is she lacks statutory authority to do that.”

        WSDOT has that authority. See RCW 47.12.080 and 47.12.120.

      4. Paula Hammond says, actually, that WSDOT does have that right. Also, the supreme court implied it strongly.

      5. Ben, I’m not doubting you, but I would be interested in seeing a citation of Paula Hammond’s claim. I do recall Rob McKenna claiming the same thing.

    1. Even more entertaining is USDOT could come after WSDOT for 90% of the I-90 bridge they paid for. Plus inflation and interest of course.

      Why you ask? Because prohibiting Link from using I-90 violates the agreement signed to get it finished.

      1. You’re referring to the memorandum of understanding which has all the legal weight of comments made here; that is to say, none.

      2. It mostly depends on if one of the parties to the agreement wants to press things in court. At that point it is up to the courts to decide if the MOU is a binding contract or not.

      3. OK, I had a hard time finding a copy of the original 1977 agreement. It was called an MOA rather than MOU which is really the same thing. Interestingly all recent reference seems to use MOU including the 2004 amendment. The reason I wanted to find the original was to confirm that the Federal Highway Administration, the party which has the ultimate decision making power was never a part of either agreement. It would be very odd for them to sue over something they never signed off on.

        The MOA makes for some interesting reading, like 8.(g):

        Provision for exclusive transit lane(s) on 1-405 through Bellevue which shall also include provision for a freeway flyer stop and a park-and ride facility on I-405 between Main Street and N.E. 8th in Bellevue

        I’ve never thought of BTC as a flyer stop and where’s that P&R? All the original agreement specifies is that the design be light rail capable. It’s actually the 2004 agreement that addresses the implementation.

  12. From good ol’ Wikipedia:

    A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is a document describing a bilateral or multilateral agreement between parties. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action. It is often used in cases where parties either do not imply a legal commitment or in situations where the parties cannot create a legally enforceable agreement. It is a more formal alternative to a gentlemen’s agreement.

    Also part of the MOU and not legally binding is the “right” of MI residents to operate a SOV in the HOV lanes and the discussion as to whether or not that will apply to R8A.

    1. From the immediately subsequent paragraph:

      “In some cases depending on the exact wording, MOUs can have the binding power of a contract; as a matter of law, contracts do not need to be labeled as such to be legally binding.”

      This I know to be true. Not that I am well-versed in what does in fact constitute a contract, but I do know that a contract is formed even when there is no piece of paper with a big formal “THIS IS A CONTRACT AND WE ALL KNOW IT’S A CONTRACT OKAY” header.

  13. I would think that kemper Freeman would want East Link to built so we on the westside could travel to Bellevue with ease to shop at Bellevue Square

    1. You would think that, wouldn’t you? But there are some further implications.

      First of all, that makes it just as easy for someone to travel into Seattle to do their shopping. And it’s quite apparent that downtown Seattle offers more accessible retail diversity than downtown Bellevue.

      Freeman’s entire business model relies on a captive audience: people leave their homes and arrive at his mall, with virtually no opportunities to be waylaid by alternatives. People optimize their car trips for the fewest number of stops, which is made possible by trunk space. When walking, carrying capacity is at a premium, and time rather than number of stops is the limiting factor. Walkability and modern city planning are a direct threat to Freeman’s business model.

      1. I don’t see light rail having any significant impact on retail in Bellevue. Especially Bellevue Square which is a l-o-n-g way away. Restaurants possibly will benefit from more desirable office space. But if you’re a current tenant do you really want to see rents rise?

      2. I think high rise dwelling units in downtown Bellevue will explode with the arrival of Eastlink. It could be like Seattle’s version of New Westminster BC.

  14. Serious question about this: Can we ban or regulate paid signature gathering at some level?

    I mean, when people are engaged in signature gathering as a profession -and as an industry, doesn’t that put it in a category beyond protected speech? Also, we ban people from paying for votes so why is this so different? A petition is just as crucial to the democratic process as voting is and a signature just as meaningful in terms of affecting the process. It seems to me that the two are more similar than dissimilar.

    1. The paid signature gathering is an issue. Ssh, Eyman will add this to his revenue generating initiative “portfolio”. I’m often upset with the paid signature gathering that goes on at the ferry waiting lots. On the other hand, it’s a fun way to pass time actually debating these folk asking for a signature on something/anything they know nothing about. You can make up the most outrageous lie and they address it as if it’s a legitimate issue because that’s what they’re paid to do. You’ve got to find something to do while waiting for the next boat and this doesn’t cost tax payers a dime.

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