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On Other Blogs Today: Light Rail, Plastic Bags, Coal Trains, and More

Our daily roundup.

By Erica C. Barnett October 9, 2013


1. As the federal shutdown reaches its ninth day with no detente in sight, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) has penned a scathing op/ed in the Seattle Times blasting House Republicans for refusing to allow a vote on a bill to fund the government and end "this embarrassing episode." 

"Overnight our state’s national parks could reopen their gates, more than 600,000 Washington veterans could again be guaranteed the benefits they’ve earned, Main Street businesses could access loans and thousands of workers could return to their jobs," Murray writes. "All it would take is for Republican House Speaker John Boehner to allow a single vote. ... But thus far, over a week into a crisis of his own creation, the speaker has refused to do that. And the reason has to do with the same kind of backward logic that has prevented the House of Representatives from passing everything from immigration reform to a comprehensive farm bill. Boehner hasn’t brought the bill to a vote because he knows it will pass."

The shutdown is costing the economy an estimated $160 million per day. 

2. Seattle Transit Blog has the news that Sound Transit saw yet another month of double-digit ridership increases on Link light rail in August, according to the transit agency's latest ridership report. Weekday Link boardings were up 10.7 percent; Saturday boardings were up 10.2 percent; and Sunday boardings were up 8.2 percent. Overall, ridership has doubled in the last four years and light rail to the airport is on track to meet its projection of 47,000 daily boardings by 2020. 

Image via Sightline.

3. A policy that was once controversial even in liberal Seattle has become routine, with Olympia the latest city to ban disposable plastic grocery bags and impose a five-cent charge for paper bags.

The Olympian reports that the Olympia City Council voted unanimously to ban the ocean-clogging bags, joining Tumwater and unincorporated Thurston County.  (As we tweeted last week, Tim Eyman is floating an initiative to stop bag fees.)

4. The Seattle Times serves up its obligatory election-year piece on the races for Seattle Port Commission, where four seats are up this year.

The Port, obviously, has been overshadowed by the mayor's race, but it rarely gets much coverage; as the Times points out, "Every candidate for Port of Seattle Commission will tell you the Port’s biggest problem is that no one realizes how important it is."

Only one of the races is seriously in doubt: Incumbent John Creighton is being challenged by longtime Auburn mayor Pete Lewis, who has been endorsed by former attorney general Rob McKenna and more than 30 mayors. 

5. Sightline's Eric de Place has an amazingly thorough (and thoroughly damning) job of breaking down just how frequently roads would have to be closed to accommodate coal and oil trains along the Columbia River if two proposed new coal terminals (at Cherry Point and Longview) are built.

The short version of the math is that 57 trains traveling at 45 mph will close down streets for an hour and 47 minutes every day, and that number of trains moving at 20 mph will close down streets for four hours and one minute a day.

The post also examines what the trains will mean for seven specific towns along the route in Klickitat, Skamania, and Clark Counties. Already, in Vancouver, "the state transportation department is spending more than $150 million in public funds in the hopes of untangling Amtrak service from freight rail congestion, and to build a bridge at 39th Street (not shown) owing to the frequent street closures from trains."

6. Also in Vancouver, the Columbian reports that the C-Tran board's controversial 5-4 vote to adopt a funding plan for light rail between Portland and Vancouver despite angry residents who showed up at a board meeting yesterday and attacked the members who voted for the proposal, in some cases shouting personal insults. 

"'They may be ignoring us,' Clark County GOP Chair Lynda Wilson said, 'but we're certainly not ignoring them," the Columbian reports; Wilson's comment came during a "boisterous rally" before the meeting.

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