After months of commuter and legislative complaints, the state transportation commission finally buckled to public pressure and voted to reform part of the tolling scheme on Interstate 405. Under new rules that take effect Friday, tolls will no longer apply on nights (after 7 pm) and weekends, and on holidays.
The change comes after Jay Inslee and House Democrats finally decided to pay attention to their constituents. Inslee demonstrated his lack of concern for the commuters when he failed to step in and urge Democrat State Representative Judy Clibborn to allow debate on a bi-partisan bill that would fix I-405. Inslee further demonstrated his contempt for drivers when he viciously attacked Senate Republicans for doing their jobs and holding his transportation secretary accountable, and when he (most recently) completely dismissed voters’ concerns over the entire tolling scheme.
The fact that this is an election year has a lot to do with why Inslee and his fellow Democrats bothered to do anything about the I-405 debacle. With campaign season on the horizon, this is their attempt to appear as though they are acting for the good of commuters after public backlash that could not be ignored.
As the Seattle Times put it, the changes are Inslee’s way of “presenting himself as a friend to motorists this election year.”
Of course, because the extreme environmentalists who have control over Inslee love the tolling scheme, these changes do not go far enough. They do not address the key problem on I-405: congestion during rush hour. Republican legislators attempted to pass more comprehensive fixes (House Bill 2312 and Senate Bill 6152), with bi-partisan support in the Senate. Unfortunately, Democrat leaders like Clibborn and Speakers Frank Chopp blocked the bills in the House.
Now we’ll see how the Democrats’ tone-deaf reaction to the I-405 tolling scheme plays with voters in November.