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McKenna, Inslee discuss light rail

Citizens and city councils have spent months and years debating light rail on the Eastside, and now another level of government has weighed in: the candidates for governor.

Attorney General Rob McKenna, speaking to the Eastside Transportation Association on Wednesday, questioned the validity of running the trains over the Interstate 90 floating bridge.

“I’m not even sure how it’s going to work, frankly,” he said. “I don’t know how you can do fixed rail on a floating bridge. And I envision it shutting down temporarily when there is a wind.”

Jay Inslee, McKenna’s Democrat opponent, jumped on McKenna’s remarks at a news conference Friday. In the shadow of the Bellevue Transit Center, which will be a prominent piece of the East Link project, the U.S. congressman who recently stepped down skewered McKenna’s position, an issue he said has already been decided.

“We’ve made this decision multiple times, in multiple places, by multiple people, and it is time to move forward,” Inslee said. “And frankly, I am disappointed. My opponent has lost this argument on multiple occasions, and he needs to get over it, so our community can move on.”

McKenna acknowledged that the issue had already been decided through a public vote. He did not recommend trying to reverse the ST2 vote that funded rail to the Eastside. He referenced a recent court decision against Kemper Freeman trying to block the trains from using the I-90 center lanes, saying another public vote would be the only way to reintroduce the issue.

“We all know where we are on that issue, but I don’t have an easy solution to how do you unravel it, because of the public vote, the fact that we’re moving forward with bonding … We may have to ride out the mistakes we’ve made, but going forward we can avoid those mistakes,” McKenna said.

The issue of light rail on the Eastside has been a controversial one in Bellevue for several years, but the City Council last year was able to agree on a basic framework to bring the trains through the city using a downtown tunnel.

Supporting Inslee on Friday were two of the area’s most visible light-rail supporters, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Bellevue City Council member Claudia Balducci. Prior to Inslee’s speech, the two local officials echoed the broad range of support this project has received through various votes.

“This issue has been discussed; it’s been debated; it’s been litigated, we are moving forward.” Constantine said.

 

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