Transit Idea Could Grow By Degrees

Everett Mayor Ed Hansen wants to turn the city's planned transportation center into a place where it's possible to board a bus, catch a train and study for a four-year degree.

To speed up efforts to bring more higher education to North Snohomish, Skagit and Island counties, Hansen proposed adding classrooms to Everett Station, a project scheduled for construction starting late next year.

Hansen sent his idea to the state Higher Education Coordinating Board last month with support from the Everett City Council.

The HEC board and a coalition of others have been working on a plan for the growing number of students who live between Bellingham and Everett but aren't served by Western Washington University or the University of Washington.

The proposal under consideration calls for increasing enrollments at several community colleges and establishing a small center where junior- and senior-level courses could be offered by four-year institutions such as the UW.

Hansen proposes that Everett Station be that facility, at least temporarily. He says it would be accessible, cost-effective and timely.

The station, to be built at Pacific and Smith avenues, will be less than two minutes from Interstate 5 and is expected to cost $40 million before any expansion.

Plans call for service by local buses and Greyhound/Trailways, Amtrak, the planned Sound Transit commuter train and airport shuttles.

Hansen has proposed increasing the center's size from two to as many as four stories to provide classroom space and a place for a state-sponsored center for job training, job retraining, and career counseling and development.

Because the city already has funding for much of the Everett Station project, Hansen told the HEC board the city could lease space to the board or universities at a reasonable cost.

And the center could be open as early as 2001, several years sooner than has been discussed.

Hansen says he got his idea from a center in Oakland that he visited recently. That project, where 13 universities and colleges participate, is just off a freeway and in a complex with a Bay Area Rapid Transit station.

The HEC board, which makes recommendations on higher-education programs to the Legislature, has not yet evaluated Hansen's proposal, said Bruce Botka, the board's government-relations director. But Botka said there is interest in it.

He said the board will decide at its Oct. 28 meeting whether to recommend the state go forward with the general plan for the three-county area, including the creation of the small higher-education facility.

But he said those recommendations don't have to include a specific site for the facility. That, Botka said, can be decided later, and several other locations also have been discussed.