Look for a vigorous public debate soon – involving state lawmakers, Gov. Chris Gregoire and a multitude of opinionators – about regional transportation governance for the central Puget Sound region of Snohomish, King, Pierce and Kitsap counties. The aim behind the concept is to consolidate prioritizing, planning and funding of needed roads and transit improvements to combat gridlock; though some skeptics see darker anti-transit motives, and others are concerned their counties will give more in future taxes than they get back in project funding.
Tacoma News-Tribune editorial page editor David Seago reports today at the paper’s “Inside The Editorial Page” blog there’s one more sign the dialog is gaining momentum as the legislature heads toward beginning its 2008, 60-day “short session” on January 16. At a public meeting Jan. 9 in Tacoma, former state transportation secretary Doug MacDonald and the former co-chair of a state-appointed Puget Sound regional transportation governance study commision, John Stanton, will make their case for that approach to a Tacoma-area business/government alliance which has been opposed. That’s the Regional Access Mobility Partnership, or RAMP – their concerns are outlined in this blog post, among others.
Stanton, the former CEO of Western Wireless, with former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, co-chaired the state-appointed study commission which issued a final report concluding regional transportation decision-making was needed for central Puget Sound to leapfrog ahead of political turf battles and funding backlogs, and to create a single point of accountability for the tough decisions on what road and transit projects are best for the region. After the defeat of Proposition 1 last fall, MacDonald went public with an op-ed supporting regional transportation decision-making for Puget Sound.
But perhaps the most significant official to warm to the idea is Gov. Gregoire herself. In an earlier blog post, the TNT’s Seago related thoughts the governor shared on the subject during a recent meeting with the paper’s editorial board. She said she had planned to introduce her own bill this year but would defer to Democratic majority legislators to advance the initiative.
In today’s blog post, Seago writes:
The board would be responsible for planning for all regional transit and highway planning and have the authority to impose taxes for construction. Nine members would be directly elected by voters; six would be appointed. A bill implementing the recommendation cleared the state Senate last year but died in the House. New proposals will be filed when the Legislature reconvenes this month. In the wake of Proposition 1’s crushing defeat, the governor is likely to lend her support this year.
Another supporter of regional transportation governance for central Puget Sound is Gregoire’s fellow Democrat, State Auditor Brian Sonntag, who is from Tacoma and previously served as Pierce County Auditor. In a state performance audit of current Puget Sound transportation management, outside auditors reporting to Sonntag urged a greater emphasis on congestion reduction, serious consideration of a regional decision-making structure to heighten accountability, and much more. Here is a a TNT op-ed by Sonntag based on the audit’s findings; and here is the audit, a multi-faceted look at what the Puget Sound region should do to improve transportation mobility.
The RAMP meeting at which Stanton and MacDonald will argue for Puget Sound regional transportation governance is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Wednesday, January 9 at The Port of Tacoma Business Center, 3600 Port of Tacoma Road (directions here). The meeting is open to the public. RAMP officials say they are expecting a robust conversation.
Although they’re coming to it with differing perspectives, kudos to both RAMP and the Governor for advancing the dialog on regional transportation decision-making for Puget Sound.
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