Forum moderator Floyd Brown (left) of University Place poses a question to speakers Kemper Freeman (center) and James Waldo. Freeman is against Proposition 1 and Waldo is in support of the tax package.
James Waldo, an attorney with Gordon, Thomas, Honeywell, and Kemper Freeman, CEO, Kemper Development Company, addressed issues relating to Proposition 1, the regional roads and transit tax package proposal facing voters in November. The town hall forum was moderated by Floyd Brown, former manager of the Reagan Ranch in California and a former talk-show personality at KVI radio who now runs his own consulting company in University Place.
Each speaker presented what they feel are overriding arguments which they hope will persuade voters to get behind their vision, either for or against the transportation tax package.
Waldo, representing the position of the Regional Transportation Investment District, while acknowledging errors made by RTA in the first phase of the package voted for in 1996, is a supporter of the second phase, stating that the earlier team may not have been up to the many daunting challenges & citing unusually difficult terrain in Seattle that caused so much delay and cost increases & but that the present team has overcome those difficulties and has done an excellent job in planning and projecting accurate costs for the second phase, estimated to be a combined $17.8 billion.
Waldo’s contention is that the 50 miles of light rail the project will add to the regional infrastructure and the 12,000 new park-and-ride slots that will be built along the system’s routes, combined with the highway improvements in numerous areas, including an extended highway 167 that will reach into the Port of Tacoma from Puyallup and divert port trucking away from Interstate 5, will serve to alleviate congestion and improve industrial transportation options that will serve economic expansion. Acknowledging the high costs, Waldo believes the plan is balanced and well planned, and that we need to make a decision now and get on with carrying out the infrastructure improvements and expansions.
Freeman, best known for his extensive Bellevue Real Estate investments such as Bellevue Square, has invested his considerable experience in major project planning and budgeting to come up with a plan that he feels better serves the need to bring relief to the region’s transportation dilemma. Citing RTA’s frequent failures to deliver on budget and construction promises from the 1997 voter approved plan and & in his estimate & the seriously underestimated costs of the 2007 Regional Roads and Transit System, he does not feel RTA and RTID have track records that support their projections or promises. According to Freeman the actual costs are going to reach closer to $37 billion, and that taxpayers will be paying the costs over 50 years or more. Engineers he has consulted with have devised an approach that would save billions of dollars and focus on roads as a more realistic solution to congestion. While supporting a mass transit system with realistic objectives he feels throwing billions of dollars into a system that, when finished, still will not develop a ridership any greater than it was in 1900 does not begin to solve the real problem, and wastes immense public funds and the opportunity for real solutions.. The costs, according to his projections, will amount to an average of $2,000 per household per year over the 50 years he said it will take to pay for the project. Proposition 1, said Freeman, will be the largest single localized tax increase in the history of the United States.
Freeman’s focus would be to add freeway lanes and improve major arterials at critical points. Even with the ridership growth estimates projected by Sound Transit and RTID for mass transit systems there will be increasingly greater congestion on the region’s road systems due to a failure of mass transit to absorb enough of the commuter load and the increasing reliance on the road system to facilitate future economic and population growth. Freeman’s studies indicate that the solution is far simpler and less costly. By adding only 6% more road surface & 3% freeway and 3% other major arterials & congestion will be lessened and taxpayers will not be paying out of their pockets for a system they likely will not take advantage of or benefit from proportionate to their investments.
Erika Cranmer of Lakewood jots down a question she hopes will be addressed in the public question and answer segment of the Proposition 1 forum at Clover Park Technical College’s newly opened Student Center.
Following the formal presentations questions from the audience were addressed. Among those in the audience and submitting written questions was Erika Cranmer of Lakewood. She has recently been inducted into the Pierce County Voters’ Hall of Fame for her 51 years of unfailing record of voting. Her concern was the disproportionate share of the package Pierce County residents will be asked to pay.
Additional information is available in the Pierce County Voters Guide.
Article and photos by Ed Kane, Freelance Graphics, Lakewood