Thursday, September 07, 2006

Guest Posting - The Road (and Rail) Ahead

Submitted by Paul Matsuoka

How far do you want your trains and buses to go? What central Puget Sound roads and bridges are most in need of repairs, replacement or upgrade? These are the questions Sound Transit and the Regional Transportation Investment District are trying to answer this fall as they prepare for a vote on a roads and transit expansion next year.

Traffic makes getting around the Puget Sound region very difficult. It will be even more challenging with the addition of an expected 1.2 million more people living here in the next 25 years. The Governor and Legislature in early 2006 directed the two agencies to come up with plans and funding packages to submit to a public vote in November, 2007. As the law currently stands, the two agencies will present two plans for a vote--one roads, one transit. Both must pass for either to take effect.

Sound Transit is exploring options for the future of our regional mass transit system, including the expansion of light rail to connect King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

The Sound Transit Board has rolled out three sample investment packages that provide a vision of what the future regional system could look like. These packages are based on .3, .4 and .5 percent sales tax increases within the Sound Transit district. Imagine more light rail, Sounder commuter trains, ST Express regional buses, park-and-ride lots, HOV access lanes and transit centers. Along with the RTID, that future could include replacing aging structures like the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the SR-520 floating bridge, expanding I-5, SR-167, I-405 and improving other major roads in Snohomish, Pierce and King counties.

Sound Transit and RTID hope to finalize their prospective plans by the end of the year.

Paul Matsuoka is director of the Office of Policy and Planning for Sound Transit.

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