Friday, October 27, 2006

Road & Transit Elements Emerging

Submitted by Paul Ellis

As explained here on September 11th, Sound Transit and the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) are working together on an integrated Roads and Transit Plan that will include multiple extensions of regional transit services along with major road improvements. The specific projects that may be presented for voter approval next November are gradually becoming somewhat clearer.

In July, Sound Transit unveiled three sample investment options that provide a vision of what the transit piece of the future regional system could look like--different scenarios combining new investments in light rail, regional buses, park-and-ride lots, HOV access lanes, transit centers and improved commuter train (Sounder) service. Since that time, more than 5,000 people from throughout the region have taken the time to comment on these options. The maximized rail extension option received the strongest support--and by a wide margin (77%). A telephone survey of the region’s residents underscored the public comments’ call for this option.

Today marks the deadline for public comments on the roads portion of the Plan, coordinated by the RTID. Written comments have been provided by RAMP in addition to participating groups such as the Port of Tacoma and the Economic Development Board.

One major area of concern noted to varying degrees in these comments is the likelihood that neither package (as they now stand, at least) adequately provides the regional connections Pierce County wants and needs, such as light rail all the way to SeaTac Airport and completion of SR-167 to I-5. The die may have been cast in the 2005 Session when the Transportation Partnership fund distribution assigned less than 5% of spending to Pierce County projects.

The ultimate question is this one--when voters are asked next November to open their wallets one more time for transportation improvements, will there be enough on the ticket to make the cost worthwhile?

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community’s largest transportation planning effort.

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