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Tom Shillue

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Rantz: Jenny Durkan’s plan on light rail? More bureaucracy

Jenny Durkan is a candidate for Seattle mayor. (Durkan campaign)

Seattle Mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan has a detailed plan to speed up delivery of light rail in Seattle. Only I’m not sure the lead component of her plan will speed up anything. It involves a hell of a lot more bureaucracy that will likely slow the projects down.

Related: Anti-car Cary Moon will make Seattle traffic worse

In order to outflank transit-friendly-to-a-fault opponent Cary Moon, Durkan is suddenly talking more about transit projects like light rail. She managed to get through the primary without taking any firm stances on much, so she has the ability now to come up with positions to target different groups of voters without wondering if she’ll have to backtrack on primary positions.

In her plan, Durkan says she’ll work with Sound Transit to expedite construction. In order to speed up the delivery of light rail, Durkan would create more committees.

Yeah, that’ll get it done.

She has committed to appointing an executive leader in the mayor’s office to head up a team. The team would be a range of senior city department leads and would move projects through the permitting processes and environmental review as efficiently as possible. Why isn’t that currently happening? Think about that: something incredibly important isn’t currently moving as efficiently as possible. If that’s the case, the problem is institutional and a new committee will only slow the process down.

Additionally, Durkan says she’ll:

Bring together community groups in the new light rail corridors to engage in the planning process with the goal to advise the Mayor, the Council and the Sound Transit Board on identifying project preferred alternatives within 18 months and making a final decision on the projects to be built within four years.

This, again, slows things down. If the group comes to the table with members holding different opinions on project priorities, it will take a while to find consensus. If they all come to the group already agreeing with the mayor’s office or council on project priorities, you’ve wasted time on a step that’s unnecessary. Just move forward with the projects.

Am I to believe council members don’t have a general sense of the transportation demands of their constituents? They regularly talk about these things. This is a superfluous group that slows things down.

Here’s the bottom line: any candidate who takes a position that claims they’ll move Sound Transit work along faster is making a promise they mostly can’t keep. Sound Transit is not under the authority of the mayor’s office and they’ll still operate at the timeline they think is reasonable. And while Seattle can put pressure to get work done faster, so can other leaders in other cities expecting Sound Transit to deliver to their communities.

Can they cut some red tape to move things along faster? Absolutely. Creating committees does not do that and, even if it did, Sound Transit is still responsible for getting the work done while involved in competing projects.

Don’t fall for a promise that cannot be fulfilled.

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