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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Back to the Ballot Box

Posted by on June 29 at 14:40 PM

In today’s Stranger, we call for a revote on the monorail’s financing plan, and the resignation of Seattle Monorail Project director Joel Horn. A few highlights of our story:

• $11 billion - the monorail’s $2.1 billion construction cost, plus $9 billion in interest payments over 50 years - is too much to pay for the monorail. While other big public-works projects cost about twice as much as the amount borrowed to build over the life of the loan, the monorail will cost five times as much. That is unacceptable.

• Two years ago, the SMP erred by overestimated the amount it would take in in tax revenues by about 30 percent, leading to the current shortfall. Because the agency can't afford to pay for the monorail in the standard 25 to 30 years with those revenues, it has to stretch the tax for at least 50 years. That increases the amount of interest the agency will pay over the life of the tax, and forces the agency to rely on unrated, uninsured bonds called junk bonds, which carry a higher interest rate.

• We still strongly support the idea of the monorail, and the $2.1 billion plan the agency released this month, while flawed, is acceptable. But we can't support this financing package.

• The City Council should find the monorail financially unsound, and submit a new tax package to the voters to pay for the monorail plan released this month. A yes vote would fund the plan with a new mix of taxes that would pay for the system in 30 years, not 50 or more.

• A system created by a populist movement merits a populist response. Putting the monorail to another vote now is risky. But if we want a monorail system that works, it's worth the risk.