Single transportation board proposed
The Puget Sound region's tangle of transportation agencies should be replaced by a 15-member, mostly elected board to choose which highway...
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Puget Sound region's tangle of transportation agencies should be replaced by a 15-member, mostly elected board to choose which highway and transit projects get built, a state panel will recommend.
If created, a new "Puget Sound Regional Transportation Commission" would take over many decision-making powers held by the state Department of Transportation, Sound Transit, county councils and the Puget Sound Regional Council of local governments, said the report, requested by the Legislature.
"Today there are too many cooks in the transportation priorities kitchen," declares the report of the panel, co-chaired by former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice and telecommunications billionaire John Stanton.
In all, 128 agencies play some role in transportation decisions for Snohomish, King, Pierce and Kitsap counties, the panel found. Some officials advocate for their area, or for one type of transportation — rail, bus, highways, local streets — instead of the region.
"There are many good projects, but who is going to say no?" the report quotes Rice as saying.
The report will not be released until late this month, but a copy has been posted online by John Niles, a Seattle supporter of bus rapid transit, at www.bettertransport.info/pitf.
The proposed board would have nine members elected by area, each representing 390,000 people. The governor would choose six others.
The panel recommends giving commissioners tremendous powers to propose tax increases and plans for both transit and highway projects and to set policies for land use.
While the report explores at length the problem with scattered decision-making, it doesn't cite any specific mistakes, except to criticize the varying bus fares in different places.
It's unclear if the report's impact will match its boldness.
First, the state would have to pass legislation. Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, said Monday she likes the suggestions and that Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, is already working on a bill.
Second, any reforms would likely come after November's expected "Roads & Transit" ballot measure, which would set in motion billions of dollars in projects picked by the Sound Transit and the Regional Transportation Investment District boards — the same boards the reform panel seeks to weaken.
Stanton said he supports raising money for transportation needs this year, before inflation for construction projects gets worse. And if the measure fails, reforms in 2008 would become even more crucial, he said.
House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said, "We'll always have decisions to make."
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or firstname.lastname@example.org