Transportation, Media, and Congress

TRANSPORTATION

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and King County Executive Ron Sims were all smiles at a press conference Monday, July 7, when the U.S. Department of Transportation's inspector general released a report concluding that previously deficient Sound Transit has now satisfied the requirements for a $500 million federal grant. But the report glossed over hurdles that stand in the way of Link light rail coming in on time and under budget. The IG deemed the estimated cost of $2.4 billion for the 14-mile project to be reliable, but that figure will surely change. As the report said, ST has yet to award any major construction contracts, and the budget is an estimate. Sound Transit will need to negotiate again with Burlington Northern Santa Fe over easement rights, and the inspector general didn't deem that a problem. But as previous negotiations with BNSF show (regarding an easement for the Sounder commuter train), ST has been unable to get what it wants at a budgeted cost. Next, the grant is submitted to Congress for a 60-day review, which spells more trouble. U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn, the Bellevue Republican, has promised to do everything she can to kill Link. And her powerful ally, Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., is chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on transportation and is very unfriendly to mass transit. When asked about this potential snag, Murray said, "It's just something we'll have to sort out in committee." NOAM REUVENI

MEDIA

Tom Brown, a reporter and editor at The Seattle Times for 20 years, has skillfully done just about everything else in the print-news biz, so it's no surprise he's leading the way at the paper as an incisive blogger. During the Iraq War, he wrote "Battle Lines," an overview of news links and commentary. That has morphed into "Between the Lines," a more general roundup of developments related to U.S. foreign policy. His experience as an overseas correspondent (he held a post in Moscow for United Press International during the Cold War) gives him license to "write with authority," as they like to say in the Times newsroom, and he's also writing with an edge that is uncharacteristic for mainstream papers. Linking to an Army Times editorial that rips the Bush administration for failure to properly compensate military men and women, for example, Brown writes: "These are the same people, you'll recall, who fell all over themselves cutting taxes on stock dividends, with the vast bulk of those savings going to people who don't need it." Sounds like competition for SW's Mossback. Brown's URL: http://blog.seattletimes.nwsource.com/betweenthelines/. CHUCK TAYLOR

CONGRESS

Maybe the Business Software Alliance (BSA) knows something we don't. Last week, the industry group gave U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., its "Cyber Champion" award, citing her "leadership on technology policy." Cantwell's name appears so infrequently in print, it would seem the former RealNetworks exec has proven to be a leader of not much. So we asked why the BSA chose her. "It isn't specifically for any one thing she's done in the Senate," spokesperson Jeri Clausing said, stalling for time. After looking into the matter further, Clausing said the industry is happy with Cantwell for fighting a copyright-protection bill, which would have mandated that PCs be equipped with technology the industry considers unworkable. NINA SHAPIRO

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