May 4th, 2011
It turns out that Initiative 1125, the toll-restricting measure that Tim Eyman says he intends to qualify for the ballot this year, wouldn’t just restrict the Legislature’s ability to raise revenue for transportation projects using tolls.
A review of the measure’s text indicates it also seeks to shut down Sound Transit’s voter-approved East Link project in a dubious, iffy fashion.
(East Link is Sound Transit’s endeavor to bring light rail to Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Redmond via Interstate 90).
It’s no secret that Tim Eyman and his backers, Michael Dunmire and Kemper Freeman, Jr., despise Sound Transit.
Dunmire and Freeman actually took Sound Transit to court last year to seek a ruling preventing the Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge from being used for East Link, even though the bridge was mostly built using federal dollars and the stipulation that part of the bridge deck be turned over to rail transit as soon as possible.
The Supreme Court just last week dismissed that lawsuit, but Dunmire, Freeman, and Eyman are undeterred.
The pertinent section of I-1125 is as follows:
NEW SECTION. Sec. 3. State government, the department of transportation, and other agencies may not transfer or use gas-tax-funded or toll-funded lanes on state highways for non-highway purposes.
Translation: No portion of a state highway can be dedicated to high-capacity transit, period, even if the state is compensated for the portion of the highway that it turns over (the wording above spells out no exceptions).
This section is meant to mess with East Link, but what Eyman and the law firm he retains don’t take into account is that Interstate 90 is a federally designated highway. The section that runs from Seattle to just east of Spokane is owned and operated by Washington State, but it was built with federal money and belongs to the Interstate Highway System. Consequently, the state cannot simply do whatever it wants with I-90, even though it is responsible for the aforementioned portion of I-90.
Decades ago, when Tim Eyman was just a boy, the state, King County, and the cities of Mercer Island and Bellevue signed an agreement which explicitly stated that the bridge deck would be built so that the portion now known as the express lanes could be dedicated to rail transit:
The I-90 facility shall be designed and constructed so that conversion of all or part of the transit roadway to fixed guideway is possible.
An update to this 1976 agreement, signed in 2004 by the aforementioned parties and Sound Transit, laid out a specific plan for making this conversion, which is presently being carried out. Eyman and his wealthy backers desperately want to nix the plan before Sound Transit can get East Link off the ground.
If passed and enforced, I-1125 would also presumably prevent light rail from being added to the new Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, which is currently being designed to replace the existing SR-520 facility over Lake Washington.