Earlier this week PubliCola –which defines itself as a blog “dedicated to nonpartisan, original daily reporting that prioritizes a balanced approach”, though it appears to “balance” its reporting between the Left and the Far Left – opined on the legislative agenda of one of its favorites, the Transportation Choices Coalition (TCC), for the upcoming 2014 legislative session.
The TCC, as usual, ignores the fact that our bridges are literally falling into rivers and our ports are fighting off competitors which offer greater freight mobility inland thanks to less-congested roads. Both the state House and Senate have recognized our distressed infrastructure reality, and have drafted transportation funding packages to address these (and many other) issues. But outfits like TCC and fawning mouthpieces like PubliCola want to hold such badly-needed investments hostage to their liberal ideological agenda rather than see money go to the kind of projects the public (and our state constitution) expects gas tax dollars to go toward.
Publicola mentions five aspects of the bi-partisan Senate’s proposal that the TCC finds “problematic” and muses how transit militants like themselves would be better off blocking the Senate package entirely. Consider the ideas from the Senate proposal which the Seattle Left finds so objectionable:
TCC: Senate plan raids the state’s toxics cleanup account to pay for stormwater mitigation on road projects.
Reality: In order to protect the environment, the Department of Ecology requires “stormwater mitigation” to be part of virtually every construction project in the state. And the state’s toxics control account was created by a voter initiative in 1988 to fund environmental cleanup projects. Yet TCC objects if funds dedicated to environmental protection are to be used to fund environmental protection programs?
TCC: Senate plan includes “virtually nothing” for transit, bike, and pedestrian projects.
Reality: The plan actually includes $114 million for transit and $91 million for bike and pedestrian projects, not to mention a substantial $710 million for ferries and $75 million for rail. On top of that funding, another $734 million would be distributed directly to cities and counties, which are free to pay for transit, bike, and pedestrian projects in their localities. And, that doesn’t even include the tens of millions of dollars for road projects that will also contain bike/pedestrian lanes, like the SR 520 improvements. I guess that’s all “virtually nothing” to big-spending liberals, even though it’s a higher level of non-road spending than has been included in previous transportation packages.
TCC: Senate plan includes zero tolling on I-90 to pay for SR 520.
Reality: For transit and big-government zealots, any excuse to not extract more money from taxpayers is a missed opportunity. What they overlook in this case is that tolling I-90 (a federal interstate highway) to pay for SR 520 (a state highway) violates federal law. Tolling is only permitted on federal interstates in certain circumstances, such as funding repair or reducing congestion. Tolling a federal interstate highway explicitly to pay for improvements on a different, state highway is illegal.
TCC: Senate plan includes “reducing congestion” among the state’s transportation goals.
Reality: In what world should “reducing congestion” not be a goal of transportation policy? I can’t imagine anyone— except evidently those whose top priority is forcing everybody onto trains, buses and bicycles—would object to the state considering it important to reduce traffic congestion. It should also be noted that TCC wants “health” to be included as a goal of transportation policy, instead of “congestion relief”. Perhaps this would make sense if it is referring to the mental health setbacks you’re bound to undergo while stuck in traffic if WSDOT isn’t allowed to work toward reducing congestion.
TCC: Senate plan requires “labor reform.”
Reality: After decades of Democrat control in Olympia, prevailing wage and apprenticeship standards are well entrenched. The Senate isn’t calling for some drastic reduction of these standards, but merely wants to open a dialogue about them and examine their costs and benefits to taxpayers. Yet liberals exhibit a reflexive antipathy toward the word “reform.” Presumably it’s because they fear reform would threaten the status quo that they have rigged to reward their special interest friends.
We can only hope that the legislators in Olympia who care about improving the economic climate in our state pass a transportation package soon – and that the transit-at-all-costs crowd at the TCC (and Publicola) are left waiting for the next bus when that package becomes law.