Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dino Rossi Announces Transportation Plan

I lived in the Washington, DC area from 1985-1997. I experienced some of the worst commutes to work you can imagine.

I lived in the Seattle area from 1997-1999 and experienced equally bad, if not worse commutes (second worst congestion in the country in 1999.)

Here's the difference. When I went back to the DC area in 2005, I-95 and I-395 in Virginia had been dramatically expanded. New lanes, bridges, interchanges, overpasses, etc., had been added. I hardly recognized the roads I used to drive every day. Traffic is still horrible (fourth worst in the U.S. in 2005 according to the Texas Transportation Institute), but how bad would it be had they done nothing?

Meanwhile, virtually nothing has been done to improve SR 167 and I-405 in King County in the 12 years I have lived in Washington, despite rapid population growth.

As I said on the radio yesterday, like Ronald Reagan, I did not leave the Democratic Party, it left me. The Democrats used to be the party of the working man. The Democrats used to be the party of job- and business-creating public works projects, such as dams and bridges, that increased our quality of life and invested in the future. That is no longer the case, particularly in Washington. The Washington Democratic Party may as well be the Green Party. The interests of fish, trees, and snooty latte liberals have come before the interests of the working class.

What could be more important to working people than affordable housing? Yet the Growth Management Act, foisted on us by the Democrats, has made housing unaffordable statewide, particularly in the Puget Sound area. So if you can't afford to live close to work, then you have to commute. Again, the Democratic intransigence to do anything with the road system in the Puget Sound area has forced working people to spend more hours every day in their cars instead of with their families.

Why? Because the attitude is that if we build more roads, then more people will move to Washington. The Greens Democrats want to pull up the drawbridge and seal Washington off from the rest of the world to stop that evil "urban sprawl" (a myth, by the way) and force people into more environmentally-correct public transportation (even though cars stuck in traffic burn more gas and emit more pollution,) which is not practical for most working families. And that's okay with the elitist NIMBYists who want to keep their view of the Olympics uncluttered by tract housing.

The theory didn't pan out, however. Washington has continued to grow rapidly, despite the poor transportation infrastructure, and now the chickens have come home to roost. It's been nearly 20 years since the Nimitz Freeway collapse in Oakland and the Alaskan Way Viaduct still poses a serious risk of killing thousands. The 520 floating bridge likewise could sink in a strong windstorm, possibly killing hundreds. Needed replacement ferries are still on the drawing board. Boeing moved it's headquarters to Chicago. How many more businesses will move out of Washington because of long commmute times and a do-nothing government? We are in gridlock, literally and figuratively. And it affects us in Eastern Washington, because when the Puget Sound catches a cold, we get the flu. Tax dollars that should be going to our transportation needs end up on the west side instead. Remember the 9.5 cent gas tax hike that was supposed to fix all these problems? Yeah....

Rossi's ambitious plan, among other things, calls for the state to spend $15 billion (without raising gas taxes) on a tunnel to replace the Viaduct, widening I-405 from Renton to Bellevue (the road I used to drive every day), and replacing the 520 floating bridge with an eight-lane bridge. This is bold leadership. This is what government is supposed to be about. Come November, Washington voters are going to see the clear differences between Dino Rossi and Chris "Status Quo" Gregoire.

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