Tony began this meeting by announcing that we had two state representatives as speakers.
Ron Sheck introduced State Representative Ed Murray of Seattle. He worked for Martha Chow in Seattle before being elected to the legislature. He was a member of the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission on transportation.
Rep. Murray stated that leadership, or lack of it, will determine if we have a transportation package in the next session of the legislature. The only person in the state currently offering a transportation proposal is Tim Eyman. Rep. Murray stated that we couldn’t find $30 billion in efficiencies alone. If the state Democrats pass a plan to increase the gas tax, it will fail. His latest newsletter to his constituents was all about roads, even though they are probably the state biggest transit supporters. We will ruin our environment if we don’t address these transportation issues.
Stuart Adams introduced our next speaker, State Representative Fred Jarrett of Mercer Island. Jarrett is a Mercer Island native and an important voice on the Transportation Committee. Jarrett commented that his grandfather was a railroad telegrapher. He was a “gandy dancer” and spent a summer laying rail in Balmer Yard. He experienced the “customer out” efforts on the New York Central and Southern Pacific railroads. We chose to keep the railroads private. We under-price highway choices. The University District, downtown Seattle and Bellevue are the only areas in our state where incrementally the bus is cheaper to ride than the car. The Soviets used “queuing” as a price control, we use congestion. We need value pricing. Jarrett looks at huge public costs at projects like the third runway at SeaTac Airport. The easiest way to get more air capacity is to have more rail service.
Jarrett said the Republican caucus is unwilling to increase taxes. His goal is to find 20 Republicans to vote for taxes. He has only been able to find about five. Project like SR 520, I-405 would benefit his district, but local legislators still vote against raising taxes to address these issues. It will probably go to a public vote, which will probably fail. Even a 3-cent gas tax increase won’t cover the preliminary studies for the needed projects. A 5-cent increase would allow issuing bonds.
Ron asked how do we make the argument how we’ve put ourselves behind other areas on the transportation issues, where others are making heavy investments. Jarrett suggested electing pro-business Republicans. Boeing is moving 757-fuselage production to Wichita, and the company could move all of its production. Murray commented we haven’t found a way to tell the story. It was about tax increases, not jobs for new projects and keeping jobs here. The governor has to share responsibility. The Initiative process goes beyond what it was intended to be. How can we make it more responsible? Tim Eyman does not have to report where he gets his support; legislators have to report their contributions. Jarrett commented that initiatives don’t require trade-offs, like budget balancing does.
Hans asked if a sales tax could be applied to gas, which could go to rail transit, etc. Jarrett commented that a sales tax on gas would be subject to the 18th amendment, like the gas tax. He said we had been doubling the gas tax every ten years. That hasn’t happened lately.
Stuart stated we need to educate the public that taxes are investment in transportation. Bob Lawrence said California requires an impact statement on initiatives. Jim said the voters approved transit funding, but the legislature rescinded it. Urban areas subsidize rural areas; we shouldn’t have to raise more local taxes. Jarrett said he loves going through the Tri-cities, which has more highway capacity than Bellevue. He listens to angry voters about the ferries on Puget Sound. Clyde Ballard doesn’t have a transportation problem in Wenatchee. There is a problem with a sense of urgency outside of Central Puget Sound.
Lloyd asked about flexible funding. If the federal government comes through with a High Speed Rail program, will “dangling” federal funds be helpful. Murray said he was not sure. It would work with his caucus. Even if the gas tax were raised, there wouldn’t be enough funds for anything outside highway projects, the 18th amendment notwithstanding. Jarrett said no, from the Republican caucus. It would be locked up whether there is a public vote. Murray commented that transportation used to be non-partisan; now rail and transit have become controversial issues. Jarrett said we have a very “rickety” tax structure in this state with a narrow tax base. We need to review our tax structure.
Warren asked about Sound Transit and regional taxing. Murray said his district supported the Sound Transit proposal with 76% voter approval. He wants high-capacity rail. Murray said it is OK to build south, but it needs to go north through dense population areas, not east of Lake Union to please Paul Allen. Eyman’s efforts to do away with Sound Transit may lose in court, but still kill the agency. Jarrett commented that taxes raised by regional taxing would still be small compared to the need.
Noel asked if the Sound Transit board could be changed. Murray prefers nine elected board members. Jarrett said elected officials don’t “play together” well.
After our two guest speakers ended their session, Lloyd gave his presentation. He said it was not an “easy” message from the legislators. It will be tougher next session than it would have been last session on transportation issues. Transit is perceived as an urban issue. Rail is looked at more favorably. We need to get support from “r’s” as well as “d’s”. If High Speed Rail funds become available, we will dangle that in front of the state legislators. About $2 to 4 billion, if not December, then January. Congress needs to reconcile Amtrak’s mission. The ARC may have done this. Normally, mail is a good way to communicate with Congress, now fax or phoning is important. Sid Morrison was given an award on Amtrak Cascades service from AASHTO. Should have train to Maine on December 15. Wait has been 13 years for this service.
Ray gave the fruit express update. 57-foot cars are on loan, about one car a day leaves Wenatchee for a five day run to the East Coast, which is truck-competitive and 8% below motor carrier rates. Currently shipping apples and pears. Potatoes and onions possible. Hans asked if there were any return loads. Ray said they don’t want to delay the equipment with backloads now, but this may happen in the future.
Jim Frederickson of Tacoma spoke next. His early memories were of riding trains to visit relatives in Lincoln, Nebraska via the North Coast Limited and CB&Q in the summer. He matched up his interest in cameras and trains around World War II. He worked for the NP since 1943 as a callboy, then telegraph operator. He worked at the Tacoma Union Station for several years. WSU liked his photography and published two books. A third is in the works.
The minutes were approved as written for the October and November meetings.
Resolution to install Bob Lawrence as Treasurer as of January 1, 2002 was approved.
Hans gave the treasurer’s report. We had $1800 net income for November based on the appeal letter. The expenses were normal, which also included the Vancouver luncheon meeting. We had about $200 income above expenses from the meeting.
Ron Sheck reported there would be a Rail Summit in Portland December 13, which would include representatives from Amtrak, California, Oregon and Washington. Sound Transit commuter train has had more than 13,000 riders a week this year compared with about 5000 last year. Tacoma Dome Station plans will include space for Amtrak. Ron will step down as WashARP vice-president to avoid conflict of interest. Still working on third commuter train for Spring 2003. $20 million in recent transportation bill may go to Tacoma-Lakewood.
Tony asked for a volunteer to replace Ron’s position.
We then had the transit report from Jim Cusick. Rail transit ranked equally with highway additions on I-405. Currently proposal is shortsighted. Proposal to add lanes was given the best cost/benefit ratio.
Next meeting is January 12, 2002 at Seattle University Plaza Hotel. Will decide meeting dates and places for 2002 at that time.
We currently have 516 members in our organization.
Jim told us that NARP paid for a full-page ad in Role Call headlining Investing in American Rail has Never Been More Important.
The meeting was then adjourned.
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Last Update: 05/27/02
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