With the results of this year’s primary election not yet official, it’s time to focus on the Nov. 4 general election’s controversial proposition: the monorail ballot measure.
Proposition 2 would create the Century Transportation Authority — much like the primary’s Proposition 1, for a Metropolitan Park District — that could independently levy property taxes and the like, as well as raise $2 million each year from $5 car-tab fees. It would go toward yet another feasibility study of a 16-mile route that would go from Ballard to West Seattle via the waterfront. Construction could cost $2.4 billion, which would need another tax vote.
Taxpayers spent $124 million on the last monorail plan, which continually shortened the line with each version, overestimated revenues and projected a 50-year funding plan, only to have it defeated in 2005 — by then, its fourth time on the ballot.
It took monorail supporters two years to get the required signatures for Prop. 2 to make this November’s ballot. But they went the extra step of getting nearly twice as many signatures than needed to ensure that they had enough valid signatures.
And Prop. 2’s proponents include former King County transportation director Paul Toliver and Bob Griebenow, a consultant who has worked on elevated-guideway projects around the country and in Vancouver, B.C. Their continued push for the monorail may indicate that there is more to merit with this mode of transportation than we’ve thought all these years. They’ll need to prove its worth to the voters before ballots are mailed in mid-October.
Still, with the prolonged timeline for Sound Transit’s $11 billion, 50-mile Link light-rail system, persistent tunnel-boring delays on the Alaskan Way Viaduct project, further Metro bus-route cuts, ferry-boat cancellations, ongoing road construction and continuous maintenance on aging freeway and bridge infrastructure, voters may want a form of transportation that could be built much faster than light rail to get around and through our city.
Of course, knowing how fickle Seattle voters are, the monorail could be the next Seattle Commons project, which voters narrowly voted down in September 1995 and again in May 1996. Many supporters still regret that the proposed 61-acre park ultimately became what we know of as the South Lake Union neighborhood today.
We’ll certainly find out come November where our pocketbooks and patience are headed — and whether the fifth time’s the charm for the monorail.