This Washington

Enviros' New Transit Strategy: Get Ahead of the Game in Olympia

By Erica C. Barnett February 10, 2011

Viet Shelton, a spokesman for the new Transportation for Washington campaign that launched this morning and campaign director for Transportation Choices Coalition, says the group's strategy in rolling out the campaign so early is to get ahead of legislators and business groups who are likely to propose a roads-heavy state revenue package next year.

The campaign is aimed at getting a revenue package that focuses on road maintenance and expanded transit over building new roads that "cause more sprawl, pollution and increased costs to taxpayers."

"We said, instead of playing by [road supporters'] timeline all the time or throwing out our list of demands at the end, let's try to shape the public conversation right away," Shelton says.

Senate transportation committee chair Mary Margaret Haugen, historically no friend to transit supporters, is expected to roll out a statewide revenue package that emphasizes roads over transit next year. Meanwhile, state Rep. Marko Liias has introduced legislation that would allow voters to fund transit at the local level.

Shelton says he doesn't expect to see any transit package on the ballot until next year, when Obama will be up for reelection. "Presidential years are particularly good years, with the right electorate, to support large transit measures," Shelton says, noting that the last time voters passed a major light-rail package was in 2008, when Obama was elected.
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