Today's loser: Transit advocates.
While we certainly concede that it's great news that Bellevue has finally, after some four years of acrimony and process, recommended a preferred light rail route through downtown, our relief is tempered by the fact that the route and station design they chose serves temporary political interests at the expense of the people who will ride light rail for the next 100 years.
The proposal the council adopted:
• Does not include $5 to $8 million in savings from shifting the Bellevue Way west, adding an HOV lane and running the train at street level. After residents objected, the council opted to keep the tracks in a retained cut (essentially an open tunnel), saving nothing.
• A "road over rail" section along SE 112th, allowing the tracks to pass under the street to move from the east to the west side of 112th, with access to SE 4th St. limited to emergency vehicles, saving between $2 and $4 million;
• And, most controversially, an elevated station at NE 6th St., rather than the underground station preferred by transit proponents like the guys at Seattle Transit Blog and Bellevue council members Claudia Balducci and John Chelminiak, who argue that it's too far away from downtown housing and the Bellevue Transit Center and reduces overall access to the station. Shifting the station above ground saves between $19 to $33 million.
So, to summarize: For a total savings of $21 to $37 million (far short of the $60 million Bellevue initially said it would come up with), the council endorsed a station design that will, according to the city's own report (page 52), serve significantly fewer residents and jobs than the alternative.
STB has been following the Bellevue rail story closely and has a great summary of the proposal the council adopted last night.
Today's winner: The Beer Industry
Or, more specifically, Olympia lobbyists Jeffrey Gombosky and Steve Gano, who lobby for Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, respectively. The house Democrats gave up on a proposal to raise $60 million in new revenue by implementing a 25-cent per gallon beer tax on big brewers (and a 15-cent tax per gallon on microbrews).
The house revenue committee chair, Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne), who proposed the tax as part of a $500 million plan to raise taxes for K-12 education, acknowledged today that raising money by extending and expanding the beer tax was risky: "Anheuser-Busch could hand a check to Tim Eyman and say go have fun," Carlyle told PubliCola, explaining that the beer industry was likely to bankroll a repeal effort that could "put one million school children at risk."
Public records show that Anheuser-Busch has already paid Gombosky $60,000 for the four-month session.