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March 22, 2012 at 5:49 PM

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McKenna still no fan of Sound Transit

A decade ago, Rob McKenna was dropped from the Sound Transit governing board by Chairman Ron Sims,after McKenna criticized runaway costs and estimating blunders in the regional light-rail program.

Now that he's running for governor, the Bellevue Republican is still no fan of what he calls an unaccountable agency, and in particular its $2.7 billion [2007 dollars] East Link route that includes putting trains on the I-90 floating bridge.

No surprise there, but what's got transit fans atwitter is a remark Wednesday to the pro-driver Eastside Transportation Association, to the effect it would take a public vote to stop Sound Transit. McKenna's comments were recorded and posted to YouTube here,and reported earlier Thursday afternoon by PubliCola

"At the same time, it's been voter approved, and the Legislature created, I think, this significantly unaccountable regional transportation body called Sound Transit, and evidently, the solution is not found in the courts. So, you know, the only way out [unintelligible word] I can see is another public vote."

But McKenna didn't express confidence the agency would be stopped, nor offer to lead an attempt to do so. In fact, under his watch as attorney general, state lawyers fended off a lawsuit by developer Kemper Freeman Jr. to forbid Link trains from taking over the I-90 express lanes.

McKenna goes on to advocate for greater road capacity. He praised recent I-405 widenings, as well as "T-ramps" that help express buses enter and exit the freeway HOV lanes. Rail is soaking up dollars that would be better spent on bus-rapid transit, he argues.

Jay Inslee, the Democratic opponent in the governor's race, supports transit projects to help the Puget Sound economy grow, said campaign spokeswoman Jaime Smith. "It basically hits home that Rob McKenna is trying to stand in the way of progress," she said.

Regional voters, including 58 percent in Bellevue, approved a sales-tax hike to fund the current 15-year, $18 billion Sound Transit plan in 2008.

McKenna's campaign manager, Randy Pepple, said history proved McKenna right about costs of rail. But jobs and education are higher priorities, Pepple said, instead of reopening old struggles over Sound Transit.

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