by JOE A. KUNZLER (“Avgeek Joe from Skagit County”)
We have a situation that requires your attention in Northwest Washington State: namely, the Tri-County Connectors linking Skagit, Island and Whatcom Counties are at risk. Even the Skagit Transit express bus to and from Everett is at risk.
How can this be so? Especially when, according to this Island Transit fact sheet, over 350,000 trips were taken on the five Northwest Washington State county connector routes in 2012? My math indicates for the 5-day week that’s over 1,300 regular users of these routes, and ridership has grown almost every year since 2006, despite the recession.
Yet, the state transportation budget that will come out in a few weeks must include a $6 million per biennium grant for the tri-county connectors. Not as part of some transportation package going to the voters, but in the current no-new-revenue budget. Otherwise, come the end of June… no more Tri-County Connectors.
Arguably, that’s over 1,300 cars off the road. That’s creating capacity on currently existing roads, cutting harmful emissions, saving money that would have to be spent either on road repair or expensive efforts to expand road capacity. That’s also transit access to places in our region such as the Cascade Mall, Naval Outlying Field Coupeville, Bellingham Community College, Bellis Fair and more.
If we are truly one state, then we need to come together and demand that in the current transportation budget there is funding for the county connectors. This is a service that allows Northwest Washington State citizens – many of whom pay more in taxes than receive in services, plus live in that region for a multitude of reasons – to link up with the stellar Seattle area transit network.
Please look up contact the appropriate legislators on page 2 of the fact sheet. Also on that contact list is the entire State House & State Senate transportation committees. Although Rep. Dave Hayes has pledged that he will fight for funding both the Tri-County Connectors and the Everett Connector within existing revenue to protect these trips, until we have a transportation budget signed by Governor Jay Inslee, this is not a done deal.