Opinion

County incapable of managing transportation system

county transportation County Hearing Examiner Stafford Smith recently confirmed what drivers have known for some time: King County government is incapable of managing our transportation system.
   Mr. Smith recently released his report and recommendation regarding the Blakey Ridge UPD proposal. Although hearing examiner proceedings are usually a "rubber stamp" for development (this one was no exception), Mr. Smith shared the healthy skepticism expressed by the public over the transportation mitigation plan and King County's Transportation Concurrency Program.
   Here are a few key comments from his report regarding Novelty Hill Road:
   "...Such being the case, there is no persuasive reason to conclude that the 2005 background traffic flow will be reduced by a development lid imposed by the King County Transportation Concurrency Program."
   "What the foregoing analysis indicates is that the over-capacity scenarios for 2005 described within the Blakely Ridge FEIS for Novelty Hill Road may be considerably more serious than suggested..."
   "This sugests that the critical links analysis underlying the issuance of a certificate of capacity to Blakely Ridge may have been unduly optimistic in its assumptions, and the three-land design for Novelty Hill may indeed prove inadequate sooner than projected."
   The examiner agreed with the public over the county's "expert staff" and the proponent's paid consultants. As a result, the permit was amended to impose a halt on the issuance of building permits if traffic on Novelty Hill Road goes over capacity.
   Mr. Smith's report should merit serious concern on the part of taxpaying citizens throughout King County.
   In March of 1995, the Department of Public Workds (DPW) issued a Certificate of Traffic Concurrency to Blakely Ridge. This supposedly assured the public that provisions were made to mitigate traffic impacts concurrently with construction of the development.
   On the contrary, the hearing examiner's report says, in effect, that DPW's traffic analysis and certification process was seriously flawed. This same, flawed review process and ill-named traffic concurrency program is in use throughout unincorporated King County.
   Taxpayers must question King County Executive Gary Locke's oversight of DPW. In addition, taxpayers must hold the County Council accountable for creating a legislative and regulatory environment that circumvents the spirit and intent of state concurrency statutes including the Growth Management and Environmental Protection Acts.
   Against a backdrop of some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation, and a county estimate of one billion dollars to fix our road system, Blakely Ridge developers have appealed Hearing Examiner Smith's ruling to the County Council. Hopefully, the council will respect the Hearing Examiner's judgment and uphold his recommendations.
   A newly-formed organization, Coalition for Public Trust, has recently formed to hold public officials accountable for the one-sided concessions and handouts that government is routinely giving to the development community.
   While waiting for that next traffic light, how about dialing 689-6964 on your cell phone and arranging to make a sizable donation.

Donald S. Berkowitz, President, Bear Creek Citizens for Growth Management