Afternoon Jolt: State Rep. Dave Upthegrove and Transit

By Afternoon Jolt June 21, 2011

Today's Winner: State Rep. Dave Upthegrove

State Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-33, Des Moines) was named legislator of the year  by the state's biggest environmental lobbying groupm, Washington Conservation Voters. (They made the announcement to membership on Friday.)

The green group picks an environmental MVP every year; last year state Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, W. Seattle, Vashon) got the honor, primarily for her work securing money to buy a Maury Island strip mine from Glacier Northwest so the land can be preserved and converted to a park.[pullquote]Upthegrove does deserve a customized shout-out for strengthening the TransAlta bill down the stretch.[/pullquote]

WCV cites Upthegrove, who chairs the house Environment Committee, for his work ushering through the legislation that transitions Centralia's TransAlta coal fired power plant off coal; his work on regulating yard fertilizers; and his stand heading off the annual assault on the voter-approved renewable energy guidelines for utilities.

Certainly all heavy lifts—and while many people deserve credit for the TransAlta legislation (particularly Sen. Phil Rockefeller and Rep. Marko Liias) Upthegrove does deserve a customized shout-out for strengthening the bill down the stretch.

It should be noted that a lobbyist from another environmental group that's in the trenches during the legislative session says Upthegrove was a "rock star" on transportation issues. Jolt couldn't agree more: Upthegrove was adamant during crunch time about making sure the transportation budget included transit funding.

Today's loser: Transit on the new 520 bridge.

In a wonky blog post today, the Transportation Choices Coalition offers some "preliminary thoughts" about the final Environmental Impact Statement for the new SR-520 bridge. The verdict? Overall, not great.

"The final EIS did not alleviate our ongoing concerns that a plan for transit mitigation is not complete and not addressed in the EIS," TCC lobbyist Carrie Dolwick writes. Additionally, "we still have concerns that funding for the [long-term] transit plan is not adequately addressed in the EIS. With the imposition of tolls and more predictable travel times on the corridor, transit usage will increase dramatically. We think that tolling revenue is an obvious source to fund adequate transit service and transit mitigation.

"It is concerning that there is still no clarification where funding for the additional transit service will come. Given the current financial crisis of King County Metro and Sound Transit, increased funding for planned transit service is necessary, and if funding for this service cannot come from toll revenue, where will this increased funding come from in this time while transit agencies budgets are severely hurting?" The EIS also assumes that fewer low-income people will be impacted because there will be more transit on the bridge, which won't be the case unless transit gets adequate funding.

Finally, Dolwick warns that "if Tim Eyman gets his way," it will be impossible to fund rail across I-90, which runs parallel to 520, and variable tolling will be prohibited.

"If this passes, our concerns about transit and 520 will grow deeper and more urgent for deliberate action to ensure that transit is fully funded through this transition and on the new 520 bridge," Dolwick concludes.
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