Nickels lauded with national award for transit leadership

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Long-term efforts to bring light rail to region recognized

The American Public Transportation Association has bestowed one of its top honors on Sound Transit Board Chair Greg Nickels, naming him the association's Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member for 2009.

APTA President Bill Millar praised Nickels, a founding member of the Sound Transit Board and its longest-serving member, for his unwavering efforts over 20 years to bring light rail to the Seattle region. A congratulatory letter from Millar was read by Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl at today's meeting of the Sound Transit Board.

"The residents of the Seattle region have been very fortunate to have such a visionary public servant in their midst," Millar wrote. "I can think of no one more deserving for this national recognition."

"Getting Sound Transit across the goal line took the vision, leadership and passion of many people," Sen. Patty Murray said. "Mayor Nickels dedicated himself to bringing light rail to the Puget Sound region. "His passion and commitment have been key to moving this important project forward."

In 1988, Nickels, then a member of the King County Council, co-sponsored a measure leading to an advisory vote on building a regional light rail system. Voter support for the measure contributed to state legislation enabling the 1993 formation of a regional transit authority. Nickels was appointed to the new agency's Board of Directors and was elected its first Finance Committee chair. The agency became known as Sound Transit following voters' 1996 approval of the Sound Move ballot measure.

As chair of the Sound Transit Board's Finance Committee, Nickels supported efforts to move forward with light rail construction during the tumultuous period that led to securing the necessary federal funding. He was elected the Board chair in 2008. Fellow Board members recognized Nickels for his leadership in advancing the $18 billion Sound Transit 2 ballot measure that regional voters approved in November 2008.

Nickels oversaw the opening of Link light rail service between Seattle and Tukwila in July of this year. Direct service to Sea-Tac Airport begins Dec. 19, and construction is underway to extend the system to the University of Washington. Over the next decade and a half, the Sound Transit 2 measure will fund 36 additional miles of light rail to form a 55-mile regional system, along with expansions to the agency's popular Sounder commuter rail and ST Express bus services.

"Through the years, (Greg) has consistently kept focus on his vision for a regional light rail system that would bring Seattle and the Puget Sound region into line with other world-class communities," said Joni Earl, Sound Transit CEO. "He promotes improved transportation for the major role it plays in the region's economic and environmental goals and, more importantly, in our daily quality of life."