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Mon May 9, 2011
Monday morning's headlines
- No Light Rail to South King County Until at Least 2034
- New 520 Opening Bridge May be Delayed
- Kent Man Severely Injured in Apartment Explosion
- Washington Gas Prices Up Again
Making headlines around the Northwest, Monday, May 9:
Sound Transit Lacks Cash for Light Rail to S. King County
There's no money to extend a voter-approved plan to extend light rail to Federal Way by the original deadline of 2023.
The reason? The 0.5 percent sales tax voters okayed in 2008 - the beginning of the Great Recession - hasn't brought in enough funds to pay for additional commuter rail, bus service and 36 miles of light rail to Bellevue, Lynnwood and Federal Way. And Sound Transit's policy of "sub-area" equity means that taxes imposed in one area, like south King County, pays for projects that directly benefit that area.
So, with tax revenue from south County falling 30%, Sound Transit won't be able to afford to bring Link beyond Highline Community College until at least 2034, 11 years past the original deadline.
"The subarea equity policy where we divide taxing districts into subareas and then have to invest the revenues raised in that area is a terrible way to build a regional system," King County Councilmember Julia Patterson told the SeattleP-I.com. "Because essentially what happens is what you're seeing here – the poorer areas, and the socially and economically challenged areas end up not connected to regional transit."
Patterson said it might be more cost-effective to increase express bus service.
"We're looking at the amount of time it takes to ride light rail from Federal Way to downtown versus the express bus. Indeed, express bus service is quicker. But the trade off is this: Light rail, even though it would take longer, is predictable because you know exactly when it is going to come,"
Sound Transit officials say the recession and slow economic recovery drained $3.9 billion from the agency's 15-year financial plan.
State: 2014 opening for 520 Bridge may not happen
Washington state officials say a 2014 opening for the new 520 Bridge may not be possible.
The Seattle Times Mike Lindblom reports the state is no longer promising a 2014 date, but Washington transportation officials say they're still hoping such a goal is possible.
Construction companies thinking of bidding on the job thought the timeline could lead to cost increases, so the state Department of Transportation is now allowing work to stretch until July 2015.
Builders could earn incentives of as much as $2.5 million for early completion - an achievement that's happened on other recent highway projects.
Bids are set to arrive June 8 and the winner is scheduled to be chosen on July 13.
Man Severely Burned in Apartment Explosion
A man was severely burned in an apartment explosion in Kent on Sunday morning.
Fire Capt. Kyle Ohashi says a woman also was in the apartment but she was not injured. The man has been taken to a local hospital.
Ohashi says the explosion was severe enough that it blew out a front bedroom window and rear sliding glass doors of the ground floor apartment. There was no fire.
He says Kent fire and police officials and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms concluded later that uncontrolled butane gas vapors caused the explosion. They would not say why the butane was in the apartment or what ignited it.Kent firefighters say there were a high level of butane vapors inside the home. The man had several butane canisters inside the home, Ohashi said.
"What they were being used for and why they were leaking into the apartment, that's what our investigators are looking into," Ohashi told the Seattle Times.
Kent fire officials are investigating.
State Gas Prices Up 2-Cents in a Week - 92-Cents in a Year
The AAA auto club reports the average price of a gallon of gasoline in Washington is $4.03.
That's 7 cents higher than the national average, up 2 cents in a week, 17 cents in a month, and 92 cents higher than a year ago.
Some metro prices in the state from Monday's AAA survey:
- Bellingham $4.14
- Bremerton $4.07
- Tacoma $4.04
- Olympia $4.06
- Vancouver $3.97