Tom Rasmussen has been a member of the Seattle City Council for nine years and for the last three years he has chaired the transportation committee.
Seattle faces many challenges with the growth of population and increasing congestion. One complication comes from the fact that the responsibilities for safe, efficient transportation are split among the federal, state and local levels of government. The federal government government will need to approve any future tolling on I-90 or I-5 (i.e., interstate highways). In Washington State the legislative majority required to raise new taxes has been increased as we face another budget that carries a deficit and this has already affected funding for transportation. A “Bridging the Budget Gap” levy was approved in 2006 but it was based on property taxes and was followed by a drop in real estate values. As a result it has fallen short of its funding goal of $365 million. In the last election the state also lost the revenue from the $60 car tab fee. As a result, our current funding for transportation remains dependent on an antiquated model of gas taxes. However, Seattle and other cities continue to work with Olympia to expand our funding options. At this point there is a $1.8 billion backlog of road maintenance that lacks funding. Overall funding of transportation by the state is down by 24%.
Part of Seattle’s job going forward is to educate other parts of Washington why more state funding needs to go to Seattle. Up to now transportation funding has been divided among regions of the state by a fixed formula rather than apportioning those funds according to need. Poor road conditions and congestion in our city not only affect Seattle but every other region of the state that uses our ports.
Over the next few years Seattle’s aging electric trolleys will be replaced with 160 new ones. There is also a lot of work being done to understand how tolling will affect traffic and which routes (I-90 and I-5 in particular) will be impacted.
We had a very lively and informative discussion. Thank you Tom for taking the time to come talk with us!
Tom Rasmussen: First elected to Seattle City Council in 2004, Tom’s current Council term runs through 2015. Tom began his public service in Seattle as legislative aide to former Seattle city councilmember Jeanette Williams. Transportation issues were a primary focus of Tom’s work within the City Council. During that time he also protected and improved Seattle’s environment by successfully organizing the support to save Seattle’s greenbelts and open spaces and acquiring historic Kubota Gardens.
As a community leader, Tom chaired the Parks Committee of the Queen Anne Community Council. He led the acquisition of property resulting in the development of one of the largest new parks on Queen Anne. A long time advocate for human rights and social justice locally and nationally, Tom served on the national board of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. He was a founder and first co-chair of the Privacy Fund the state-wide organization in Washington created to work for the rights of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered people.
Tom is a member of the Washington State Bar Association. He is a former Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Yakima County and continues to work for victims of crime and neglect.
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