Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Sound Transit

April
27th

A good choice for Tacoma Link light-rail extension

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

There wasn’t an obvious “best” among the options for extending Link light rail further into Tacoma. But the City Council has tentatively chosen a very good one: the “E-1 North Downtown Central Corridor.”

Now all the city needs is to formally vote for it, get approval for its recommendation from the Sound Transit board, win a $50 million federal grant and find another $50 million or so from some other unidentified source.

In other words, this proposed Link project – essentially a consolation prize for not getting a light rail extension from King County – has a lot of hurdles to overcome before it becomes reality. It hasn’t even completely won over the council members, some of whom prefer a route that would serve low-income East Side neighborhoods and provide service near an expanded Emerald Queen Casino. Read more »

March
26th

Boe’s light rail option deserves a (quick) look

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

The Tacoma City Council has complicated an already complex decision on light rail in Tacoma. That’s OK – as long as it doesn’t also derail the decision.

Some background:

The regional transit package Puget Sound voters approved in 2008 didn’t give Pierce County a rail connection to Sea-Tac Airport and beyond. But the county did get a consolation prize: a promise to expand Tacoma Link, the small electric rail line that already runs from the Tacoma Dome north through downtown Tacoma.

The Sound Transit board is now poised to make good on

Read more »

Oct.
8th

South Sound commuters finally get what they’re paying for


A Sounder train pulls into the Lakewood station during a test run. (Staff file photo)

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

If all went as it was supposed to as of this writing, the first commuters to catch the Sounder train in Lakewood and South Tacoma in the wee hours this morning are already at work up north.

This is a day that Pierce County has long awaited – and paid for. The region’s citizens voted back in the mid-1990s to tax themselves to extend Sound Transit rail service extending to Lakewood. Now, 11 years after that service was originally supposed to begin, it finally has. The 8.5-mile, $325 million extension from Tacoma’s Dome District was scheduled to begin operating with a 4:42 train this morning.

If the recent testing period is any indication, there will be bumps along the way. Drivers will have to get used to trains briefly shutting down 17 at-grade street crossings between the Lakewood Sounder Station and the Dome District in downtown Tacoma. And pedestrians will have to restrain themselves from trying to beat the trains by scurrying across the tracks. That does not always end well.

Inconvenience is a price drivers should be willing to pay. Someday they, too, might want the option of taking the train instead of battling freeway traffic. And offering one more way to commute helps lighten that traffic and moves people in a more environmentally friendly way. Read more »

Jan.
31st

South Sounders share Federal Way’s transit frustration

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Some Federal Way-area officials are so unhappy with Sound Transit that they’re contemplating secession from the tri-county transportation agency. There’s no mechanism for such a move, but that’s not stopping them from talking about it.

Their pain is our pain – to a point.

Sound Transit has determined that sales tax revenues from the South King County sub-area have fallen so steeply that the agency must delay extension of light rail to Federal Way from 2023 to 2034 or later. That delay means that the next light rail leg – to Tacoma – will be delayed as well. Originally projected to be completed by 2029, it’s now looking like sometime in the 2040s.
Read more »

Oct.
10th

I-1125 puts taxpayers on hook for local toll projects

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Tim Eyman makes his living selling initiatives, which means he’s got to churn them out regularly to keep his paydays coming. Some have contained the germs of good ideas; others have been folly incarnate.

Initiative 1125, on this year’s ballot, falls under into the incarnate category. It sounds wonderful: a law to protect drivers from unreasonable highway tolls.

Scratch and sniff, though, and it turns out to be a monkey wrench aimed squarely at the state’s efforts to keep cars moving on overcrowded roads.
Its biggest defect is so stupendous that it’s hard to believe Eyman or anyone else in his shop anticipated the impact.

Tolls are commonly used to repay bonds that finance big transportation projects, such as the state Route 520 bridge across Lake Washington. The Legislature – like other legislatures throughout the country – delegates toll-setting authority to panels responsible for making sure the bondholders get the interest and principal they’ve been promised.

If highway projects in Washington started looking like bad loans, private financing for future projects would dry up. Like it or lump it, that’s the way capitalism works.

I-1125 proposes to vest toll-setting authority in the Legislature; its supporters crow about making elected officials accountable for the fees.
Read more »

Aug.
6th

Bellevue billionaire buys himself an Eyman initiative

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Whatever voters think about Initiative 1125’s attack on highway and bridge tolls, they should know this: The measure might not exist but for the bankroll of a Bellevue developer who hopes to kill a voter-approved transit plan.

Kemper Freeman Jr., the force behind Bellevue Square and much of the rest of downtown Bellevue, has given more than $1 million to the campaign run by professional opportunist Tim Eyman.

A full 86 percent of the contributions to Eyman’s I-1125 coffers came from Freeman’s company, Kemper Holdings. Without that money, Eyman might not have been able to hire the paid signature gatherers who qualified the measure for the November ballot. Read more »

May
15th

Pacific Avenue project presents opportunity, challenge

This editorial will appear in the Monday print edition.

A short distance from Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma is Thea Foss Waterway – a former Superfund site that the city spent $105 million cleaning up.

But untreated stormwater runoff from Pacific Avenue continues to drain dangerous toxins into the waterway, posing a threat to ongoing cleanup efforts. As environmental regulations regarding stormwater contamination tighten up, it becomes ever more incumbent on cities to seek solutions to their runoff problems.

It looks like Tacoma’s found one, and it promises to deliver aesthetic benefits in addition to environmental ones.

Plans are under way to retrofit Pacific Avenue between South Seventh and 17th streets with the latest in stormwater technologies, which may involve replacing curbs, gutters and sidewalks. The $8 million project will provide an opportunity to enhance the avenue with trees, water features and pervious pavement – all of which will help filter stormwater. Public input on the streetscaping part of the project is being sought (see box).

Some critics have suggested the city should give filling potholes a higher priority. But the city must address the polluted street runoff. Besides, much of the funding for Phase 1 of the project is federal money – a $1.5 million Environmental Protection Agency grant and $800,000 from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.
Read more »

Oct.
26th

Mass transit to Olympia: Let’s start planning

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord has traffic. Sound Transit has trains. Can we talk?

It’s time Sound Transit and the Thurston County Commission started thinking about bringing regional bus and train service to Olympia.

Anyone who travels between Olympia and communities to the north knows that traffic between Lakewood and the state capital has become routinely hellish. It can take an hour to an hour and a half to make what used to be a fast drive. The congestion has been aggravated by population growth, much of it at Lewis-McChord, where the troops seem to get reinforced every time the Pentagon closes bases elsewhere.

JBLM is now poised to get bigger still, with an influx of about 14,000 additional soldiers and dependents.

As it happens, Interstate 5 shrinks from eight lanes to six not far from where Lewis-McChord begins to disgorge its traffic. That bottleneck will get a lot tighter when the base swells to 36,000 people. Add that to the existing traffic nightmare, and it’s clear the state must create new HOV lanes to connect the planned high-occupancy lanes in Tacoma to points south.

But mass transit is also a logical part of the solution. Those HOV lanes would do the most good if they were efficiently carrying Sound Transit’s express buses through the congestion.

Read more »