"Light rail is going to happen," said a source in Senator Patty Murray's office. "People who think it's not are simply fooling themselves." Murray has been Sound Transit's deus ex machina in D.C. all along.
But now, another powerful woman in Washington is arguing that the American taxpayers are the ones being fooled--since they're being asked to pick up the tab for what she calls an illogical light rail proposal.
Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in her hometown of Bellevue this month, Republican Representative Jennifer Dunn made her first public comments attacking the light rail plan. "King County is asking the federal government for $500 million for a system that, to me, makes no sense," Dunn said. "People would haul their suitcases aboard a train at the downtown Bon [Marché], then travel to a station somewhere south of town, unload them, then load them onto a shuttle to the airport, then unload and load them again. I can't see how you will sell travelers on that."
Whether Dunn's comments constitute the beginning of a new crusade against Murray and Sound Transit remains to be seen. Dunn spokesperson Jen Burita says her boss is not opposed to light rail per se, but thinks the current proposal is a bad idea. Burita said Dunn was "quite surprised" by the Federal Transit Administration's decision to release the money, and would have more to say about the plan once the U.S. Department of Transportation's Inspector General's office releases its report.
But Murray and Sound Transit are eager to kick-start the light rail project, which has been stalled by procedural moves by Murray's Republican counterpart in the House, Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY).
Light rail opponent and former King County council member Maggi Fimia said opponents of the plan will continue to fight Sound Transit's proposal, both in Seattle and in Washington, D.C. "I certainly don't agree with the inevitability of light rail," she remarked. "That's a mind game that [Sound Transit] continues to play with the public."
Fimia said she was greatly encouraged by Dunn's new public opposition to the light rail, and hopes the congresswoman will take a leading role in the attempt to stop what Fimia calls "this absolutely terrible idea."