The Seattle Times
February 15, 2006
YOU are stuck in traffic, again. Late to pick up your kids, late to a meeting, late to the airport, late to deliver your freight. This month, a windstorm closed down the Highway 520 bridge and a small earthquake sent state officials to make sure the Alaskan Way Viaduct was still passable.
Working toward fixing these problems is central to the Regional Transportation Investment District's recently released "Blueprint for Progress: Moving Forward Together."
In 2001, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation stated that Washington state's transportation system is on "a collision course with reality" and if nothing changes, the Puget Sound region will experience "severe traffic congestion on every major roadway during most of the day" in 20 years.
While much has changed since 2001, much more work remains to maintain and improve the Puget Sound region's transportation system. In 2003, the Legislature adopted the "nickel package," a "nuts and bolts" package of transportation improvements for the Puget Sound region and Washington state. The results of these efforts are taking shape now as projects are delivered on time and on budget. In 2005, the Legislature passed the "Transportation Partnership Act," a bold investment plan that directed funding toward the replacement of failing highways, unsafe bridges and transit improvements.
These investments are important. They will make a significant contribution to meeting our region's needs. However, after decades of population growth and practically no major investments in our transportation system, there is no doubt that we are still playing catch-up. Twenty years of neglect cannot be erased in a few years.
Numerous critically important road and transit projects in the Puget Sound region remain to be implemented. Important corridors such as Highway 509 and Interstate 405 in King County, Highway 9 in Snohomish County and Highway 167 in Pierce County are in need of additional funding to implement road and transit improvements outlined in the region's transportation plan, "Destination 2030."
Nearly 1.2 million additional people are expected to move into the Puget Sound region in the next 25 years. To prepare, we need a comprehensive regional transportation program to supplement state investments in road and transit projects. Without such a program, our quality of life and economic viability will suffer. Our region's economy can't afford to idle in traffic jams. A degraded and inadequate transportation system results in an unnecessary fuel and time cost that each of us pays every day.
Other successful regions around the country are moving forward. San Diego, Denver and Phoenix have all recently adopted transportation programs that make direct investments in regional road and transit projects.
A regional approach allows us to keep every tax dollar raised right here to fund our important transportation projects.
Since 2001, leaders from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties have worked extensively with city officials, the Washington State Department of Transportation, transit agencies, and the Puget Sound Regional Council to develop a proposed regional transportation program. We have conducted public outreach, identified high priority projects, refined project scopes and secured a comprehensive, independent review of project costs.
Just recently, nearly two dozen local elected leaders from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties signaled their support for a proposed program and called on the Legislature to provide the region the necessary tools to implement it.
Recent state investments in road and transit projects within the Puget Sound region make our work to develop a regional transportation plan even more significant and imperative. It is our job to build upon the investments the state has made so that we may realize the goals outlined by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation and maintain a strong economy and quality of life in the Puget Sound region.
Shawn Bunney, left, is a Pierce County Council member and chairs the executive board of the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID). Julia Patterson, right, is a King County Council member and executive board vice chairwoman of RTID.