Governor Locke has saved the monorail from a potential disaster. Last Thursday evening, March 21, in Olympia, Locke vetoed a provision in the contentious transportation package that tied the regional transportation bill (fixes for King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties) to the statewide gas tax bill. He then signed the regional bill into law, where it awaits voter approval. Locke's move is good news for the monorail. Here's why.

When Locke signed the regional bill into law, he solved a dilemma for the monorail. The monorail bill--Senate Bill 6464, in which the state gives Seattle permission to tax itself for an elevated system--could only be signed into law if the regional bill was also signed. (Thank a sneaky last-minute tactic by Senator Dan "I Love Roads" McDonald for that stipulation.) This led to many sleepless nights for monorail supporters. When the monorail's fate was tied to state and regional issues like the I-405 expansion, more ferries, and additional Sound Transit money, the monorail faced the very real possibility of being voted down along with everything else. "This is just bad public policy," says Harold Robertson, executive director of the Elevated Transportation Company (ETC), the group responsible for getting the monorail plan together. "Why should voters in other counties decide if Seattle gets to build a monorail?"

But Locke's actions saved the day. Now only Seattle voters, not voters in other counties and parts of the state, can affect the outcome of the monorail. If Locke signs monorail bill SB 6464 into law, which he is expected to do, Seattle gets the taxing authority to build the monorail. But Locke isn't finished, say the ETC and many in the Seattle establishment.

The ETC and others are thrilled by Locke's work, but want Section 18, McDonald's sneaky provision, vetoed outright. Mayor Nickels and most of the Seattle City Council agree, along with the Washington State Labor Council, the King County Council, and the Seattle/King County Building & Construction Trades Council. They all sent the governor letters last week backing the ETC's position. "Veto [of Section 18] improves the ability to move forward with planning and constructing the monorail," says a March 21 city council letter signed by Council Members Nick Licata, Judy Nicastro, and Heidi Wills. The ETC wants Section 18 vetoed because, as it stands, a citizens' initiative could overturn Locke's regional bill--a "better overly safe than sorry" tactic, since an initiative is unlikely. "Even if Section 18 is irrelevant, we want it gone," says ETC spokesperson Ed Stone. Speaking of vetoes, Locke oughta take a look at another problematic provision of SB 6464--Section 7.

This troubling section gives the city council a ton of power over the final monorail plan. Bad news. If voters approve the Ballard to Downtown to West Seattle monorail plan in November, Section 7 lets the city council significantly modify the plan. Sure, the council is supportive now, but will they be if monorail costs rise or budget priorities shift?