May 28, 2013 |

Let’s fix our highways

Transportation systems need to be a top government priority

Our state is facing a looming problem that has gotten little attention lately—one we need to act on to create jobs and retain the quality of life that makes this a special place to live.

Our transportation system is teetering on the brink of crisis. State highways, county roads, and city streets are deteriorating and bridges are in need of repair. Transit agencies have cut service and are facing even more cuts.

Major transportation projects, critical to our economic vitality, are under construction but still only partially funded.

Other long overdue projects that will ease traffic congestion and help move freight through the state are still on the drawing board because of lack of funding.

The ferry system is in desperate need of replacement for our aging boats. Stormwater runoff is polluting our waterways. Critical gaps in sidewalk and bicycle facilities make it difficult for children to get to school safely.

In 2011, the Connecting Washington Task Force, representing business, local government, labor, and environmental interests, developed a 10-year strategy to maintain and improve the state’s transportation system.

The Task Force’s final report estimated that the state would need to invest approximately $50 billion over 10 years to adequately meet the transportation system needs.

The North Puget Sound Manufacturing Corridor, which extends from Bothell to Arlington, is a vital part of the state’s economic engine.

Local projects, such as the Highway 9 / Highway 204 interchange has local as well as regional significance in the recovery from the recession and the continued growth of the region.

The list of needs is mounting, and the longer we wait the more it is going to cost to correct these problems.

This year is the best opportunity to move forward. A broad coalition of stakeholders—business, labor, environmentalists, local elected leaders - have been working together and ALL agree that we need to take action now.

So does Governor Inslee. Working with legislative leaders they've come up with a plan that addresses our most pressing challenges.

The priorities in their approach: maintain what we have, protect jobs and our economy; and support transit and local transportation efforts.

The result is the “Connecting Washington” package (HB 1954/HB 1955), proposed by House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn.

Together, these bills would make a significant down payment on our problem. The $9.5 billion, 12-year package would make key investments in maintenance and preservation of our roads, provide funding for key projects to improve freight mobility and relieve traffic congestion and provide direct funding and funding options to local governments to protect transit service maintain and improve local roads, and make critical safety improvements to bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Local public and private leaders understand the significance of the needed infrastructure to move goods, services and people in a multi-modal fashion. We, every one of us, need to let our legislators know that these critical infrastructure improvements are needed now.

Our state is literally at a crossroads with a transportation system that is our lifeblood. Our current roads are crumbling, traffic congestion is getting worse, freight is getting stuck, and transit service is getting cut.

We can either do nothing, or we can make a down-payment to create and grow jobs and the economy and more efficiently move people and goods. The situation won’t improve unless our elected officials in Olympia act, this year.

Let’s get this done.

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