State transportation system faces failure without reforms

November 19, 2013

By Contributor

Here we go again — talk of yet another special legislative session this year to pass a proposed $12.3 billion transportation tax package.

I will not support a tax proposal, which could include an 11 1/2-cent gas tax increase and a host of new and higher fees, while serious transportation project reforms are needed and folks are struggling to make ends meet.

Before lawmakers rush to stifle our fragile economic recovery with new and higher taxes, the Legislature should pass meaningful project and cost-saving reforms within the Washington State Department of Transportation. The reforms I support would:

  • require WSDOT to report construction and design errors to the Legislature and the agency’s plan to avoid making the same mistakes twice;
  • revise prevailing wage requirements;
  • stop charging sales tax on public transportation projects;
  • allow for public-private partnerships to deliver transportation projects quicker and more cost-effectively;
  • restore balance to transportation funding by vastly increasing our investment in general purpose lane construction to address congestion points;
  • address the disproportionate subsidies for mass transit and bicycle lanes;
  • change the design for the Columbia River Crossing to remove light rail and accommodate commerce on the waterway;
  • stem the tide of environmental lawsuits; and
  • reform Washington State Ferries to address staffing issues, ferry design flaws and building costs.

All of these issues cannot be tackled at once, but making congestion relief through more lane capacity our top priority this year is a reachable goal. The nonpartisan think tank Washington Policy Center recently conducted a poll and found that adding capacity to highways was residents’ top priority.

Our transportation infrastructure has not kept pace with minimal population growth, or the amount of freeway miles driven in the part of the state with the most traffic congestion. The following WPC information demonstrates how roadway capacity and miles traveled have changed over the years:

  • In 1982, drivers traveled 14.6 million miles per day in the Seattle region; In 1982, the Seattle region had 1,345 miles of freeway lanes.
  • In 2010, drivers traveled about 30 million miles per day in the Seattle region; In 2010, the Seattle region had 1,874 miles of freeway lanes.

Clearly, no amount of additional mass transit or bike lanes are going to get us out of this mess — we need to start building and investing in more freeway lanes, so we can efficiently move vehicles and freight throughout our region.

As the most trade-dependent state in the nation, we need a road system that allows for goods to reach our ports efficiently. And, workers who commute by car because of their schedule, family obligations or convenience should be prioritized again in our transportation system.

We must be practical in our transportation solutions and maximize the tax dollars we send to Olympia to serve all Washingtonians.

 

Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie, serves the 5th Legislative District. He is a member of the House Transportation Committee. Reach him at jay.rodne@leg.wa.gov.

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