Rep. Chad Magendanz

ST3 offers little for the Eastside at enormous costs | Vote no

It's outlandish that a progressive and prosperous region like ours is gridlocked for half the working day.

  • Monday, October 10, 2016 8:38pm
  • Opinion

It’s outlandish that a progressive and prosperous region like ours is gridlocked for half the working day.

But that doesn’t mean that Sound Transit 3 — the proposal on the November ballot — deserves a yes vote from Eastside residents.

The $53 billion ST3 proposal offers little for the Eastside at enormous costs. If passed this November, Eastside sales, car and property taxes would rise immediately with only meager benefits until 2041. Even worse, it would endanger future school funding.

Issaquah’s sales tax, already at 9.5 percent, would go up to 10 percent — the highest in the nation, besides Seattle and Chicago. An average Eastside household would pay an additional $1,000 per year, and there’s no expiration date for these new continuing taxes.

All this for light rail we wouldn’t see until 2041.

The property tax increase also adds an additional strain on homeowners who are already being asked to shoulder a heavy burden supporting schools, parks, libraries and sewer districts.

As a member of the bipartisan school funding task force, the last thing I want to see is additional property taxes that do not benefit our schools. That was a key reason I voted against the transportation bill that empowered Sound Transit to move forward with this funding proposal.

Polling shows that the public loves the idea of “light rail,” and Seattle politicians have been quick to embrace these big-spending programs.

So Sound Transit is calling for mammoth investments in outdated 19th century technology that would have virtually no impact on traffic congestion in our lifetimes. This isn’t how we build a 21st century economy that will benefit our children.

The recently opened University Link cost close to $600 million per mile. These are unimaginable amounts for a low capacity transit system, which Seattle light rail is.

Authorities on the cost efficiency of light rail say expanding rail into areas with fewer than 30 people per acre is not worth the cost, assuming the average cost per mile is $50 million. Those population density numbers leap up to 67 per acre if the cost per mile increases to $100 million. Sound Transit 2 cost $350 million per mile.

Even downtown Bellevue doesn’t have close to that population density. For a city like Issaquah, with a population density of only 4.2 per acre, the cost makes even less sense.

Other proposals, including Kemper Freeman’s Mobility 21, offer a better alternative for the Eastside. Bus rapid transit, ride-sharing, self-driving electric cars and improved highway management all offer better hope for our low-density cities.

I’ve taken some political heat for my opposition to the gas tax increase and ST3, but I believe politicians should represent their district above all else.

In a 2015, our district voted 67 percent against increasing transportation taxes.

In 2014, we voted 77 percent against a sales tax and vehicle fee for King County Metro, another big Seattle-centric transportation scheme.

Congestion is a problem. We’re all frustrated by the area’s traffic. But we have options.

It’s time to reform our regional transportation planning and management from the ground up, pushing aside the special interests and partisan groups that now dominate the process.

Vote no on Sound Transit 3. Then let’s roll up our sleeves to put together a new 21st century transportation plan that will really cut commute times on the Eastside.

Chad Magendanz (R-Issaquah) is a state representative of the 5th District.

Editor’s Note: To read a pro-ST3 viewpoint, visit www.bellevuereporter.com/opinion/396590991.html

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