Inside Opinion

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Tag: Interstate 5


No excuses on state transportation vote

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

The Legislature must pass an operating budget before it calls it quits for the year. That’s a constitutional necessity. But it must also pass a transportation package. That’s an economic necessity.

With the special session winding down, the prospects of the $10 billion highway-and-transit proposal remain precarious. Lawmakers can’t let it fail. The consequences of its passage — or its rejection — are literally incalculable.

Aside from a festering dispute over a new bridge between Vancouver and Portland, the projects in the package enjoy broad support.

The most important of them, the Puget Sound Gateway, would break open freight chokepoints by extending state Route 167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma, and by extending state Route 509 from the SeaTac area south to Interstate 5.

If those chokepoints stay in place, they could ultimately turn the ports of Tacoma and Seattle into maritime backwaters as Pacific Rim shippers and manufacturers shift their cargoes to competing routes free of chronic congestion.

Other regions have big stakes in this measure:

• It would earmark $175 million to rebuild I-5 interchanges near Joint Base Lewis-McChord to ease traffic jams that paralyze the freeway on a regular basis.

• It would widen and add lanes to Interstate 405 to relieve congestion in that corridor.

• It would extend highway and rail corridors in Spokane, expanding that area’s freight-shipping capacity. It would also widen Snoqualmie Pass to improve its safety and ability to handle large trucks.

Freight mobility isn’t a particularly sexy issue, but the ability to efficiently move goods — apples, jet components, electronics, wheat — is vital to Washington economic future. All of these projects would help move people efficiently as well.
Read more »


SR 167: A job-creating bridge waiting to be built

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Washington is getting a taste of what it’s like to lose a critical stretch of a major highway.

Before it collapsed Thursday, the Skagit River Bridge on Interstate 5 carried roughly 70,000 vehicles a day, more than 8,000 of them trucks. Its collapse severed the main artery that links the economy of the Puget Sound region to Vancouver, B.C.

The disruption shows how one highway fracture can choke the movement of people and goods hundreds of miles away. But Washington has already suffered another – less visible – highway failure that’s done far more damage in recent decades.

Helicopters with camera crews may not be circling it, but the unfinished six-mile gap between state Route 167 and the Port of Tacoma is also strangling commerce and jobs. It’s the economic equivalent of a ruptured freeway no one bothered to fix.

SR 167, which now runs from Interstate 405 in Renton to the Puyallup area, was always supposed to turn west and connect to Interstate 5 and the port.

The extension has been planned for more than 30 years. Right of way has been purchased, environmental preliminaries are complete, and much of the design work is done.

But the concrete isn’t there – which means that Pacific Rim exporters cannot smoothly move their freight past the port, and Washington farmers and manufacturers cannot smoothly move their goods to the port.

The obstruction has been costing the state tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. Increasingly, it is tempting maritime shippers to look for alternative routes to Chicago and other big inland markets.

Six hundred miles north of here, the once tiny but rapidly expanding terminal at Prince Rupert – the location of North America’s deepest ice-free harbor – has suddenly emerged as a ferocious competitor for Puget Sound shipping. One of the Canadian port’s key advantages is an unobstructed railway corridor to the heart of the United States.
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JBLM traffic puts a costly strain on the South Sound

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord troops back from Iraq or Afghanistan might think they’ve left a war zone only to face an army of road warriors on Interstate 5.

What once was a 40-minute commute between Tacoma and Olympia on most days to somewhat longer if an accident created backups has now become much longer – mainly because of thousands of additional personnel at JBLM. It’s not unusual anymore for the trip between Tacoma and Olympia to take 90 minutes or more.

For South Sound commuters heading north on I-5, HOV lanes provide an incentive to ditch their vehicles and take the bus or carpool. Not so south of Tacoma. Without HOV lanes, buses and carpools get trapped in the same interminable gridlock as single-occupant vehicles.

JBLM is taking one welcome step in response to the traffic: On Monday it will open a new entrance on Mounts Road from 5 to 8 a.m. so that northbound I-5 traffic going to the base in the morning can opt to exit before piling up at the main entrance. Read more »


Put the collar on Nalley Valley line-jumpers

Huge traffic backups are occurring on I-5 as drivers merge into one lane to exit onto state Route 16. Staff photo

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

When the second Narrows Bridge opened in 2007, Tacoma-area commuters celebrated: Virtually overnight the regular rush-hour backup on state Route 16 had become a thing of the past.
But like the movie monster that just won’t die, the nightmare is back – and apparently not going away any time soon.

A state Department of Transportation construction project is under way to get rid of the infamous Nalley Valley viaduct “weave.” That was the dangerous maneuver that took place when northbound Interstate 5 drivers wanted to merge onto state Route 16 at the same time traffic from southbound I-5 was trying to take the Sprague Avenue exit. Read more »