Many predicted an early death for the liberal talk network Air America when it debuted this year, but it didn't work out that way. On the air as of Monday in Seattle on KPTK-AM (1090), the programming is doing well enough in other markets that Infinity Radio dumped its country format on AM here in favor of the liberal blabbermouths led by Al Franken. "There is enough of an underserved market that word of mouth will get the station off the ground quickly," says Dave McDonald, a senior vice president at Infinity. The question isn't so much how many listeners are willing to tune in. We know Seattle is a liberal bastion. The question is what effect Air America will have on National Public Radio stations KPLU-FM (88.5) and KUOW-FM (94.9), where many liberals gravitate for news and talk. KUOW says it has an average audience of 350,000 people a week, making it the No. 5 station here. KUOW Program Director Jeff Hansen says Air America won't scavenge listeners: "We're objective and balanced. Air America is clearly staking out a position, which we are not. I think that most of our listeners appreciate not being told what to think. They like to make up their own minds based on a hearing of a diversity of viewpoints. Nobody is really encroaching on that territory." PHILIP DAWDY
The highway that won't die just got a new price tag: $41 billion to $50 billion. The idea of a transportation corridor that would run parallel to and east of Interstate 5, from the Canadian border almost all the way to Oregon, has been around since 1968 in various guises (see "Turnpike to Perdition," July 7), despite vehement opposition by environmentalists and citizen groups. In its latest incarnation, the turnpike is conceived as a toll expressway that would accommodate trucks, cars, trains, and utilities. In 2003, the Legislature found $500,000 to study the idea, and the state Department of Transportation released the study's draft last week. The news is not good for commerce corridor fans. The price is exorbitant, the private sector won't pick up the tab, and the design has flaws—like the fact it would plow through the Cedar River watershed, the source of drinking water for 1.3 million people. So is this idea dead? Probably not. There are recommendations for further study, including shortening the route and streamlining environmental review and permitting. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.
Paul Allen has been heard from on the monorail "recall" initiative: He's against it. The billionaire's Seattle holding company, Vulcan, has contributed $2,500 to Environmentalists for the Monorail (ETM), one of five groups registered and campaigning against Seattle Initiative 83. If approved, I-83 would halt plans to launch the $1.6 billion Crown Hill–to–West Seattle monorail. Moneybags Allen was outdonated, however, by Seattle Monorail Project Executive Director Joel Horn and his wife, Susan McGrath, who each gave $5,000 to ETM, as did monorail board member Tom Weeks and wife Debra Oyer. (McGrath, Weeks, and Oyer have donated to other pro-monorail groups, as well.) Still, the war chests of the five pro-monorail groups comprise a total—$296,522 as of this week—that is less than half of the $832,160 raised by the sole anti-monorail group, Yes on I-83. Yes, the contribution by America's third-richest man is dwarfed by the relentless anti-monorail giving of evangelical developer Martin Selig. A mere multimillionaire, Selig has now donated a total of $345,980 to the recall effort. RICK ANDERSON