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SEATTLE-Citing transportation as their number one priority, advocates for Seattle’s downtown have placed their bets on a multi-billion dollar transportation package coming before the voters this November.

If approved, Referendum 51 would generate $7.7 billion from gasoline taxes, motor vehicle license taxes and various other sources. The money will help fund statewide road projects around the state, but nearly half, $3 billion, will go to projects benefiting the city of Seattle.

Recognizing the potential benefits to the city, the Downtown Seattle Association has unanimously endorsed Referendum 51, and plans to advocate for its passage in November. “Transportation access is the most important factor for the future economic health of downtown Seattle,” says Kate Joncas a spokesperson for the DSA.

She explains that by supporting Referendum 51, the DSA also hopes to win support from state legislators and voters for a regional referendum that would raise additional revenue. Referendum 51 revenue will be targeted to road projects only, which has angered some members of the Seattle City Council. They have withheld their support until they can receive assurances that some money will be made available for the Sound Transit light-rail project.

The DSA has chosen a different political course of action. Emphasizing the importance of regional partnerships, Joncas emphasizes that the regional proposal could raise an additional $10-$12 billion for light rail, monorail, bus and road projects.

“We have big transportation problems,” she says. Joncas cites statistics to support her case. 180,000 employees work in downtown, she says. Forty percent of them ride buses, and there are only 55,000 parking spaces to accommodate those who drive.

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