Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Murray Moves RTC Forward

Submitted by Paul Ellis

The Washington State Legislature is moving ahead with sweeping changes to the way transportation projects are funded--and not in a positive manner for Pierce County.

Yesterday, despite opposition by RAMP and other transportation advocacy groups, the Washington State Senate passed SB5803 by a comfortable margin, 33-14. The bill, sponsored by Senator Ed Murray, would enact provisions of the Regional Transportation Commission if also adopted by the House without significant changes.

The bill sets up a new body of elected officials from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, elected by district. "It will clearly be dominated by King County voters and money," warns RAMP Co-Chair John Ladenburg. This group will take over the funding and planning for local and regional road and transit projects and would displace the transportation planning and funding functions of the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC).

RAMP Co-Chair David Graybill told Senators that the legislation "will destroy Pierce County's hard won equity role in regional transportation project planning and funding, and shift the influence to Seattle/Bellevue, where this idea got its life. "

"Another mega-regional governance vehicle is the last thing we need," Graybill concluded, especially now when "[WS]DOT, Sound Transit, and Pierce Transit are all cooperating and planning together like never before with most projects being done well and completed on time as funding becomes available."

Other voices around the region are also sounding an alarm. The Northwest Progressive Institute claims that the legislation will "complicate and confuse the existing decision making process, which is already hard for many citizens to understand. The proposed law would stomp all over home rule and local control by essentially consolidating existing transportation agencies into one larger entity."

Traffic congestion is a worsening problem throughout the Puget Sound region--not just in King County. That message needs to be communicated to members of the Washington House of Representatives, where the battle now begins.

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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