Today, the 2016 legislative session will (hopefully) wrap-up. Unfortunately, Democrats have been unwilling to work with Republicans to implement practical changes to the I-405 tolling scheme, leaving commuters to deal with the consequences of the failed experiment.
Jay Inslee’s answer was to instruct the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to work with the state’s transportation commission to make certain changes. These include removing tolls on I-405 during non-peak evening hours and (possibly) removing tolls on weekends and holidays.
These changes do not nearly go far enough. Inslee would know this if he actually asked anyone who is driving 405.
Quite obviously, the Inslee “solutions” fail to address the biggest problem impacting commuters: congestion during peak hours. It’s this problem that GOP State Representative Mark Harmsworth and GOP State Senator Andy Hill sought to fix via House Bill 2312 and Senate Bill 6152.
After months of claiming ”success,” WSDOT finally admitted that the new I-405 express toll lanes have, in fact, made traffic worse.
Harmsworth and Hill’s plan would have provided substantive relief for commuters by eliminating one of WSDOT’s vaunted 405 toll lanes and allowing drivers (who already paid for it through gas taxes) to use it as a general-purpose lane. Additionally, their bill would make other changes intended to reduce congestion on the busy roadway.
It’s thanks to Democrat “leadership” that these changes will not be implemented for the good of commuters. Democrat State Representative Judy Clibborn, chair of the House Transportation Committee, refused to even give the GOP bill a hearing in her committee even though it had enough votes to pass the state House.
Clibborn abused her power to kill a bill that would have passed the state Legislature. And, true to his long history of weak leadership, Inslee failed to step up and urge Clibborn to allow a popular bill to see the light of day.
Despite public backlash, House Democrat leaders went on to block GOP-led amendments to the recently passed supplemental transportation budget proposal that sought to address I-405 tolling problems. Rep. Harmsworth introduced two of the amendments. One proposed giving back a toll lane in each direction on I-405. The other “would have given back the toll lanes on I-405 and removed tolls entirely, as laid out in the 30,000-plus citizen petition.”
Another amendment, proposed by Republican state Representative David Taylor, would have capped tolls at four dollars.
Adding insult to injury, Democrat State Senator Rosemary McAuliffe (Bothell) decided she would use the remaining time left in the legislative session to make it appear as though she was listening to her constituents. She proposed a bill that would “conduct a study on the implementation of the Interstate 405 express toll lanes.” In other words, rather than actually solve some of the problems that are producing frustration in her constituents, McAuliffe proposed a bill that would study the frustration of her constituents.
Inslee’s weak “solutions,” Clibborn’s power grab, and McAuliffe’s tone-deaf proposal highlight Democrats’ indifference when it comes to the needs of Washingtonians.
The reality is that, after controlling state government for decades, Democrats have become complacent. They do not work for Washingtonians – they work to achieve their special interests-driven agenda.
The I-405 tolling debacle is just the latest example of the Democrats incompetence and utterly failed leadership.