Last week, Jay Inslee held a news conference to announce long overdue changes to help ease traffic on I-405 north of Bothell. Of course, the fact that it was his own bureaucrats at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) who had made congestion worse – and had fought against the changes that Inslee posed for the TV cameras to embrace – was not included in the news conference.
Also missing from the press event were a couple of connected stories, one of which popped up alongside Inslee’s photo op last week when Shift was on a break, pointing out that I-405 commuters have seen a huge increase in traffic accidents thanks to the new toll lanes. As KOMO reported:
“A new 9-month report released by the Washington Department of Transportation revealed that accidents along that I-405 corridor (Lynnwood to Bothell) were up 55 percent since the new express lanes were implemented last year.”
Even worse, the spike in accidents was directly attributable to WSDOT’s tolling lanes: “According to the report, most of the collisions happened right beside the express lanes in regular freeway lanes.”
However, WSDOT bureaucrats didn’t see it that way. To them, it had to be…the weather.
“Mark Leth, the Assistant Regional Administrator for Traffic Operations at Washington State Department of Transportation explained the increased percentage of accidents. ‘Those first three months we got hit by a lot of weather on top of changes on the roadway and more traffic,’ said Leth. (He) said the large number of accidents was driven in large part by ‘horrible weather. The worst weather on record.’”
That’s right. Not the worst transportation bureaucrats on record, the worst weather. Because how could we ever get used to the rain here?
Regardless of what WSDOT’s traffic planners think, local drivers certainly know where to aim their frustration, according to a poll released by the Everett Herald this week. And it’s Jay Inslee’s tolls that are taking a toll.
According to the poll, “Almost a year into the toll lane adventure on I-405, we’re still stuck in traffic. All that construction and $484 million bought drivers a chance to meditate, plow through their podcast backlogs, and ponder their life choices as they stare at the bumper 3 feet ahead of them. In our latest poll at HeraldNet.com, we asked how you’d get cars moving. Fifty-seven percent had the same answer: get rid of the tolls and have ordinary HOV lanes.”
But that would be too simple, even for Inslee to grasp.