Our current situation: Even adjusted for inflation, the new 520 bridge is costing 20 times what the original bridge cost. Additionally, the $250 million project budget reserve was spent and an additional $170 million had to be added to the budget to fix a faulty pontoon design. Washington State also spent about $200 million on preparation and design of new Columbia River bridge into Portland without any construction actually occurring.
A cumbersome and time consuming permitting process, excessive environmental mitigation requiring up to 16% of project costs, a state prevailing wage that is nowhere near the actual prevailing wage, a sales tax on transportation projects that diverts transportation dollars into the general fund and expensive add-ons like decorative sound walls and bike lanes all drive up construction costs. By some estimates, we may be paying up to double what other states pay for similar transportation projects. So the public has no confidence that transportation dollars will be efficiently used.
Our families need a cost effective transportation system that gets them and their families where they need to go and confidence that their tax dollars are being spent wisely.
My solution: When the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River collapsed, it was rebuilt quickly, on time and on budget and the fish didn’t die. This shows that we can build projects economically and efficiently if we commit to the reforms necessary. But with unsustainable, overpriced spending, talk of improving efficiency will not get us to the big reforms we need to move forward.
Our current situation: The new tolling scheme on the northern part of I-405, including requiring a Good-to-Go Pass to carpool and three-person car pools has resulted in more congestion on portions of the general purpose lanes, less carpooling and general discontent.
My solution: Our transportation philosophy needs to move away from focusing on movement of the HOV and HOT lanes and trying to get people out of their cars, and put more emphasis on the general purpose lanes, where the majority of drivers are. Alleviating traffic congestion needs to be added as a top priority of our transportation policy.
Our current situation: We will soon see our driver’s license and car registration fees go up to pay for a very expensive package of transportation projects (Completion of Hwy 167, fixing the 167/405 interchange, widening Kent-Kangley Road over Jenkins Creek in Covington, etc.). These are much needed projects. However, comparisons with similar projects in other states show that many of our projects cost as much as double those in other states. Therefore, in a few years’ time, we will find ourselves unable pay for further transportation improvements. And as the public sees cost overruns and errors on current projects, the public has very low confidence that their tax dollars are being spent wisely.
My solution: The House Republicans have several bills to reform our transportation system to reduce those costs. If the majority party in the House changes in November, these bills need to be reintroduced.
Our current situation: Between 3% and 4% of our residents’ trips are on transit. However, a disproportionate amount of our transportation dollars are spent on transit compared to the money spent on our highways. Seattle Metro took in record-breaking revenue in 2013. But just prior to the February vote to raise car registration fees, they were saying that without a tax increase, they would need to make a 17% cut to bus service. Whether people are for more transit or less, generally people lack confidence that those transportation dollars are being spent wisely.
My solution: I sponsored legislation to make the board of Sound Transit elected rather than appointed. While the current board members may be making their best efforts, they were elected to other positions where their primary focus must be directed. Having elected board members will empower citizens to feel better represented on this issue.