Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The RTC Comes To Town (Reprise')

T-Mobile founder John Stanton and former WA Transportation Secretary Doug McDonald met with RAMP today to seek Pierce County support for reform of regional transportation governance. Their reception by the group was polite but less than encouraging.

Stanton shared his belief that the failure of Proposition 1 was due, in part, to voter fatigue following a series of large, uncoordinated funding requests. He reiterated recommendations of the Regional Transportation Commission, which he chaired, calling for an overhaul of transportation agencies--a move that he feels will lead to more coordination, higher public credibility, and better leveraging of extant transportation funding sources.

McDonald suggested that sub-area equity--a pillar of RAMP's Legislative priorities now for several years--might work against Pierce County's goals. "You won't be able to finance mega projects like SR-167," he opined, "without tapping funding from the entire region." He said that the recent failure of Proposition 1 "convinced him" that he should join Stanton and others in seeking a major new agency that would replace groups like Sound Transit and the Puget Sound Regional Council.

RAMP's participants weren't buying. WA Senator Jim Kastama (who was a leader in crafting the Nickel Package as well as the RTID legislation) was quick to disagree. He claimed that King County did a much poorer job of prioritizing investments for the Roads & Transit package, and that this weakness would be magnified in a proportionally representative body--the entity proposed by the RTC.

Following a robust discussion, participants moved forward to adopt RAMP's 2008 Legislative Priorities. At the forefront was the statement that "a Transportation Benefit District is the most viable vehicle for advancing towards the next voter-approved funding package, whether Pierce County moves forward unilaterally or in cooperation with other counties."