Backers of an initiative aimed at stopping high-speed passenger trains from rumbling through Lakewood neighborhoods have a long row to hoe to qualify for the May ballot.
David Anderson, who started the signature drive, said Wednesday supporters have collected 297 signatures, 5 percent of the 5,500 signatures he wants to have in hand by his Dec. 11 deadline.
Supporters must gather 4,029 valid signatures from registered voters in Lakewood to qualify the initiative. They seek 20 percent more to account for invalid signatures the Pierce County Auditor’s Office throws out because the signer doesn’t live in Lakewood or didn’t register to vote, for example.
Anderson, who qualified a city initiative that would have banned minicasinoes in Lakewood that voters rejected in 2008, said it’s likely the effort will fall short but held out hope that there may still be a windfall of signatures in the final stretch.
“Maybe everybody is procrastinating in signature gathering like most people (me anyway) in Christmas shopping,” Anderson wrote in an e-mail.
The Washington State Department of Transportation proposes to shift passenger trains from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe mainline along the waterfront near Point Defiance to an inland route; the goal is to save time and improve reliability for Amtrak Cascades service. The $91 million federally funded project is in the middle of an environmental review.
Lakewood leaders and residents have expressed safety concerns because the trains would move through residential neighborhoods at speeds up to 79 mph. They would run through Lakewood’s Tillicum neighborhood, where Anderson lives and leads its neighborhood association.
The initiative intends to bar the city from entering into an agreement with any government agency that supports or enables high-speed Amtrak service to run through Lakewood.
Anderson said this is the only chance to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
The bypass is in the midst of an environmental review that examines the impacts of rerouting the trains, including safety and noise, and offers ways to mitigate them. It’s anticipated the city and WSDOT would sign an agreement related to the mitigation.
Anderson expects that the agencies would sign that agreement this summer before the next election that backers could try again to qualify the initiative.
In January 2010, the Lakewood City Council approved a resolution opposing the Point Defiance Bypass project. It took the action before the Federal Railroad Administration required WSDOT to complete an environmental review as a condition of using federal stimulus dollars.
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