“Compromise” transportation package will set Washington back 16 years

Yesterday, details were released about the “compromise” transportation package (ESSB 5987).  “Compromise” here means token elements for transit, bicycling, and pedestrians in exchange for massive road spending.  The state Senate has already raced to approve the package before most anyone could examine it.  The House is expected to do so shortly.

This 16 year package will set back transportation 16 years.  The Seattle Transit Blog reported some details here and here.  Here is the feedback that I sent to my representatives last night:

Everything in this bill is an afterthought to widening highways throughout the state.  Widening highways has never been an effective way of moving people in any city in any country.  This bill will encourage more sprawl, leaving us with the same problems that we have today and the cost to fix it (with measures similar to ST3) will go up after 16 more years of road-induced sprawl.

Taxing transit in ST3 to build roads is insulting to those who support transit.

The spending for pedestrian and bicycle travel is a start.  Every dollar spent on good pedestrian and bicycling projects will save the state money in the long-term, directly from transportation costs and indirectly from things like health costs.  The spending priorities are backwards.

At this point, I believe the state is better with no bill than 5987.

I challenge you to figure out how to move people with a substantially cheaper budget, say half.  The answer won’t be wider highways.

A big part of the problem with transit in the Seattle area is attempting to serve the Eastside.  It’s just really expensive to try to serve all of the low density area on the Eastside.  All of these roads are going to continue the sprawl across the state, leading to more areas that need some sort of transit if/when they figure out that their wider roads haven’t solved any problems.  And this ignores the sheer cost of these roads (and their maintenance!) when the state struggles to fund other important programs.

I believe it is time to drastically cut the WSDOT budget, especially when not only are they focusing on roads but even stealing money away from transit.  At best, it will lead WSDOT to more cost-effective forms of transportation.  At worst, it will limit the damage they can do.

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5 thoughts on ““Compromise” transportation package will set Washington back 16 years

  1. I totally disagree that the state is better off with nothing than with this. ST gets a massive increase in funding authority right when it needs it. If we ever want to actually build a subway, we have to realize it’s going to come with strings attached.

    The fact is, a lot of the state cares more about highways that transit and bikes. I can’t image a transportation bill coming out of Olympia that does build hhighways for at least 10 years. And the only way that ever happens is if we provide real alternatives, like a subway.

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    • I’m certainly not arguing against ST3. It’s all about the tradeoffs. Unfortunately, these have nothing to do with what’s best for the state as a whole. Instead, since we say that we must have ST3 now, it’s effectively a blank check for any other project in the state to make it into the budget. Where does one stop with these concessions? What will the WSDOT tax be on ST4? Will ST3 even pass now?

      Beyond the political posturing, I believe a lot of the highway projects have a negative effect on the state. SR 167/509 expansion (over $1.8B) and I-405 (over $1.2B on top of what has already been spent) are roughly a third of the Highway Improvements Program. This is $3B for some possible marginal improvements and quite likely more sprawl that will lead to more inefficient spending. If I look at smaller projects in areas that I’m familiar with, I see $68M to drive an SR520 off-ramp straight through a planned walkable community around a new transit station. I speculate that Spokane, the Tri-Cities, and other places are aiming to spend lots of money to make things worse in the long run too.

      In the end I see the damage outweighing the good. Obviously many disagree.

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  2. Pingback: I Quit Bike-Commuting | The View from the Crosswalk

  3. Pingback: A sad no vote on ST3 part 2: the region | The View from the Crosswalk

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