Prop. 1 rates a NO vote

There has been much debate about Proposition 1, the $47- billion "Roads & Transit" ballot measure that would increase car-tabs bills and sales tax to pay for 50 miles of new light transit and 186 miles of road improvements in a three-county region. We believe voters should reject the proposition for a number of reasons.

To begin with, it's an unusual pairing of mass transit and mostly Eastside roadwork, the latter of which would face an uphill battle in voting booths if it weren't linked to light rail, many opponents say.

And even if the ballot measure is improved, the highway fixes are piecemeal, leaving out huge stretches of 167 and 405, for example. The road improvements also represent only around a third of the total spending outlined in the measure.

The balance of the billions would go to a light-rail system that would stretch from just short of Mill Creek up north to Tacoma in the south. It's an ambitious vision that could do much to get commuters out of single-occupancy vehicles that are already crowding our overstrained highway system - if we can take Sound Transit at its word.

The agency's officials claim they've cleaned up their act, but Sound Transit's record leaves much to be desired. In 1996, when voters approved the agency's $2 billion-plus Sound Move ballot measure, it was supposed pay for a light-rail system running from the University District to Sea-Tac International Airport within a decade.

That hasn't happened. The farthest south the line has gone is Tukwila, and forget the U District. A station on First Hill was dropped from the plan, and the closest Sound Transit has gotten in its northward thrust is an early planning stage for a Light Rail station on Capitol Hill.

Furthermore, at more than $5 billion, the cost of just part of the planned line has skyrocketed to more than twice the original estimate. Sound Transit claims it has included contingency cost estimates in what it has billed as a $17-billion project, but can those optimistic estimates be believed?

We don't think so, and huge cost overruns for every other major transportation project in the nation back up that concern. Adding to our uneasiness about Prop. 1, the voters have no recourse if spending spirals out of control. There's no cap on taxes for more than 20 years, and only Sound Transit's board would have a say in how to fix a problem like that. So just say no on Nov. 6.

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