Inside Opinion

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Tag: transportation

June
27th

State commerce in the grip of the GOP

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

The job’s not done yet, lawmakers. Now it’s highway time.

It’s great that the Legislature’s Republicans and Democrats finally settled on a state operating budget that reportedly directs an additional $1 billion to schools. We’re looking forward to seeing the details, where the devil often resides.

But the passage of an operating budget was always a foregone conclusion, despite the months of bickering over its specific provisions. The Washington Constitution requires the Legislature to approve one.

A genuine accomplishment of this Legislature – that includes you, Republican senators – would be passage of a transportation budget to unplug bottlenecked corridors where the state’s freight and traffic are now getting slowly strangled.

The $10 billion package – approved Thursday by the House of Representatives – is of paramount importance to the state’s economy.

Only one Republican – Puyallup’s Hans Zeiger – had the guts to support it. Most other lawmakers in his party appear willing to kill it for one reason: The highway improvements require new tax revenue. These legislators chatter about massive reforms in the Department of Transportation and other near-term impossibilities, but it really comes down to evading a tax vote.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, roads and bridges don’t grow on trees. Santa Claus doesn’t lug them down the chimney. You’ve got to buy them.

If you don’t need them, that’s one thing. But Washington sorely needs strategic investment in its infrastructure – in Spokane, at Snoqualmie Pass, on Interstate 405 and other places where cargo and cars are getting halted for lack of road capacity.

State Route 167 is the poster child of lost economic opportunity. That highway passes from I-405 through Renton, Kent and Auburn – only to get guillotined at Puyallup. A mere six miles separate it from the Port of Tacoma and the I-5 corridor.
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June
25th

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.
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May
18th

The Puget Sound Gateway needs heroes in Olympia

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Take a good look at the list in the next post.

Those 24 lawmakers have the power to create nearly 100,000 jobs and keep Pacific Rim shipping pouring into Puget Sound through the 21st century.

Yet those same lawmakers could also help forfeit 100,000 jobs. For lack of interest or courage, they could allow the ports of Tacoma and Seattle to become backwaters of maritime commerce — which supports more than 200,000 livelihoods.

The decision before these South Sound legislators is whether to throw their combined weight behind the Puget Sound Gateway to secure its passage in the special session of the Legislature.

The Gateway is a $1.8 billion project that would extend state Route 167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma, state Route 509 from Sea-Tac Airport to Interstate 5 and build strategic interchanges to create a transportation super-corridor in Pierce and King counties.

It’s an expensive project: Highways don’t come cheap. Regardless, the future of the ports of Tacoma and Seattle, the preservation of jobs, the expansion of payrolls, and the efficiency of Interstate 5 all depend on passage of the $1.8 billion Gateway project.

Because it will require gas taxes and tolls, the Legislature won’t touch it in 2014, an election year. And there’s no reason to believe it will pass in 2015 if it can’t pass this year. Business and labor organizations are pulling together to get it to the governor’s desk as part of a larger transportation package.

But so far, there has been no corresponding push from what might be called the Pierce County caucus. (We’re including the three lawmakers from the 30th District in the Federal Way area.)
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April
17th

Could SR 167 sink in the Columbia River?

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Out of the blue comes a distant political squabble that somehow threatens the most important transportation effort in the state – the Puget Sound Gateway Project.

Gov. Jay Inslee supports the Gateway, which would knit together state Route 167, Interstate 5 and state Route 509, eliminating bottlenecks and creating a bonanza of jobs in the process. The state House of Representatives is prepared to invest more than $1.25 billion in it.

But suddenly everything might hinge on a spat over light rail in Clark County. Read more »

Jan.
23rd

Finishing SR 167 should be high on delegation’s to-do list

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

When South Sound lawmakers talk about their legislative priorities, near the top is finishing state Route 167 – the six-mile Port of Tacoma bypass. But completing the SR 167 extension has been a priority for more than two decades. It’s time to stop talking about it and get moving on it.

With competition growing from Canadian ports and a widened Panama Canal threatening to take shipping business away, Washington lawmakers and local business interests recognize how important it is to get trucks quickly between the port and points east.

The Washington State Department of Transportation refers to the $1.5 billion SR 167 extension as “a critical missing link in the state’s highway network.” Besides moving trucks more efficiently, the freight corridor also would take a lot of big semis out of heavy Interstate 5 traffic, decreasing accidents and rush-hour gridlock. Read more »

Jan.
23rd

Tacoma streets need new revenue – responsibly spent

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

A citizen’s advisory committee has come up with ideas for addressing Tacoma’s dire street infrastructure needs. They can be boiled down to two words: more money.

Given the city’s $32 million budget hole, that’s probably the only road the committee could go down. The alternative – doing nothing and letting Tacoma’s streets get into even worse shape – is intolerable.

The 13-member committee recommended not cutting existing revenue going to transportation needs, imposing a $20 car-tab fee to fund a new Transportation Benefit District and asking voters to raise their property taxes by almost $1 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for six years.
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