Sims addresses traffic woes, air quality

CARNATION _ For decades, people have discussed, argued

and waggled fingers about how to ease traffic congestion in King County.

Ron Sims believes the time for talk is over. Now the county must act.

Speaking at the Carnation Chamber of Commerce meeting on Oct.

12, the King County executive said that in 1971 the county had a plan

that would bring light rail to cities, widen roads and improve transportation

corridors in areas residents had yet to flock to. The plan, however,

didn't garner the necessary support, foreshadowing today's moving

parking lots and drivers' mounting frustrations as they commute on local roads.

"We would have had the infrastructure in place before the people

got there," Sims said of the previous plan.

Since then, the county has continuously looked for ways to open

roadways, but little work has been done on the ground. At the meeting,

Sims said enough is enough.

"The key right now is to actually start taking steps to move

forward," he said.

To that end, Sims is suggesting expanding county road projects

and synchronizing 400 traffic signals to move cars along more efficiently.

Funding for the Metro bus service is also an issue. Sims is asking

residents to support a two-tenths of a percent sales tax increase that will be

on the Nov. 7 ballot so the county can continue to service routes _

including one to Carnation _ expand park and rides and construct more bus

shelters. He said the measure, called Proposition 1, would also add 576,000

new hours of bus service.

Carnation Mayor Bob Patterson, who attended the Chamber

meeting, told Sims the bus route to Carnation is important for seniors and the

disabled, as well helping to reduce the number of cars on roads.

"If it's taken away, we lose all that (service provided to local

residents), but we also lose public transportation and the idea and habit of using

it," Patterson said.

Traffic along Interstate 90 is also an issue for the area. Presently,

some 75,000 vehicles travel between Issaquah and Interstate 405, ( fewer

make the drive from Snoqualmie Pass, or North Bend, to Issaquah).

Sims said that by 2010, as many as 200,000 cars, trucks and semis

will move between Issaquah and I-405, with 125,000 vehicles driving

west from Snoqualmie Pass. He said the county will do what it can, but it

needs help.

"People are frustrated," he said. "It's going to require business

leaders and government to both be active in the Legislature."

All those added cars create problems other than traffic congestion.

Air quality in the Puget Sound region is bad and getting worse, and

federal authorities are demanding the county do something to reverse the trend.

"The government does not tolerate dirty air," Sims said.

The region is one bad air-quality reading away from becoming a

non-attainment region, according to the guidelines specified in the Clean

Air Act. Recent readings have been so dreadful, Sims said, that if the

county is labeled a non-attainment region, it would rival the top two American

cities ( Atlanta and Houston) in terms of poor air quality.

If that happens, the federal government can

withhold money for transportation projects, which could hamper any efforts

to improve highways.

During his approximately 45-minute address to Chamber

members, Sims touched on a number of issues. These included the county's

new "salmon cam", Carnation's decision

to build sewers and also building a better sense of community in county


While most of the population growth the county is

experiencing happens in urban areas, the county executive said the rural King

County population is growing at 5 percent annually, which would double

the number of rural residents in 25 years. With more people, he said, there is

a tendency for residents to forget the things that bring them together.

"We want to make sure that community remains important in a

county growing this rapidly," he said.

"People have to have some institution that

they can rally around."

In Sims's Seattle neighborhood, it was Mount Baker Park. For five

years, residents volunteered their time and effort to rebuild the park.

As Carnation struggles to meet the demands of its current and

expected future population, Sims said the City Council's recent decision to

construct sewers and a wastewater treatment plant was a good one.

"We support that decision," he said. "We've even been looking

at ways to provide financial support.

"We think it's really important for the city of Carnation to have a

sewer system."

Sims briefly discussed the county's new "salmon cam," which

he would formally unveil later that day. Located in a small stream in the

Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish watershed, a camera will take

real-time video images of migrating chinook, coho and sockeye salmon and

send them to the county's Web site for viewing.

The camera was donated to the county, and a county landowner

volunteered the use of the stream. The migrating salmon can be seen at

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