Conlin: "I Would Have Voted Yes" on Bellevue Route

By Josh Feit August 4, 2011

Seattle City Council president Richard Conlin was the one Sound Transit Board member from Seattle who wasn't on hand for the vote last week to approve the Eastside light rail alignment. (He was on vacation, kayaking on Nootka Sound on the remote west side of Vancouver Island.)

Given that two of the other four Seattle members of the Sound Transit Board, King County Council member Larry Phillips and Mayor Mike McGinn, voted against the deal because there's a risk that Seattle might have to kick in $150 million to cover the costs of Bellevue's light rail tunnel, I wanted to see how Conlin would have voted.

(King County Executive Dow Constantine and KingĀ  County Council member Joe McDermott voted to approve the route.)

"I appreciate their concerns," Conlin says of McGinn and Phillips, "but I would have voted 'yes.'" He says the final deal "needs to be fair for us, but it was the right thing to do. It is critical to vote now to get light rail across I-90."

Pointing out the recent elimination of King County Metro's infamous 40/40/20 policy, which had allocated just 20 percent of new services to Seattle and Shoreline, and changing it so that new service goes where the demand is (Seattle) even though Seattle pays less than the other two King County subareas in to the Metro system, Conlin says: "We need to think regionally like that. Seattle has the demand and [the Regional Transit Task Force] understood that [and repealed the policy]."

Seattle covers about 40 percent of Metro's revenues (including Seattle's dominant share at the fare box) while we currently get 60 percent of the service.

Conlin draws an analogy, saying Seattle needs to think about transportation regionally and help the Eastside now. (I've got a call in to the county to gauge how much Seattle funds the county budget vs. how much of the services we get in return.)

Phillips, who flags the South King County flood district as "a one way ticket" of funds to the rural part of the county from the urban, says the Metro-Sound Transit analogy doesn't work for him: "How would you know," he says about the Sound Transit plan, "we don't have a finance plan yet. We don't know how we're going to pay for it. There's no policy. We're making it up as we go along. But [now that] we've approved this corridor with the tunnel, it's going to be hard to turn back."
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