I think we might be en route to a permanent shift in the political climate here in Western Washington. Folks are getting nasty — and I like it!
The Port of Seattle (which controls SeaTac airport) is playing cat and mouse with King County Exec (and Sound Transit cheerleader) Ron Sims. The whole thing is becoming quite the house of cards. Here’s a recap:
– Sound Transit’s Light Rail project is trying desperately to get to the airport, and not stop a mile short of it, as originally planned.
– This means it needs to work with the Port on a new rail-friendly approach highway at the airport.
– The new approach highway is contingent on a third lane being added to SR 518, which connects the approach highway to Interstate 5
– The 3rd lane on SR 518 will be funded by a gas tax passed by the legislature this year
– A new citizens initiative (I-912) wants to repeal said gas tax, which could therefore unravel the whole light rail project.
– Southwest Airlines wants to bolt SeaTac for King County Airport (a.k.a. Boeing Field). County Exec Ron Sims obviously wants to help them, because it will be a big win for the County.
– if Southwest bolts, SeaTac will have less revenue for expansion projects, including — you guessed it — the new approach highway!
So the Port is basically threatening Sims: either you tell Southwest they can’t have your Airport, or we’ll make sure your precious Light Rail is once again a “train to nowhere”.
So right now the fate of the Airport rail link is dependent on two things: I-912 failing at the polls in November, and Southwest not relocating to Boeing Field. One of those things is out of Sims’ control, but the other is not. Let’s see how he plays this. The Port just upped the ante. Can Sims play hardball?
UPDATE 4:11PM PT: Josh Feit agrees, “Ah, but personal politics win the day! I love it.”