Seattle Chamber: I-985 a step backwards

September 22, 2008 by · Comments Off on Seattle Chamber: I-985 a step backwards
Filed under: Analysis, Endorsements 

The Board of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce recently voted to oppose Initiative 985 because the increased traffic I-985 would create isn’t good for our workforce or our economy. Here are a few of the concerns cited by the chamber in its opposition statement:

Negative fiscal impact: The state’s Office of Financial Management estimates that I-985 would redirect approximately $600 million in state funds over five years. This could push the state budget deficit past $3 billion, which runs counter to the Chamber’s longstanding support for statewide fiscal responsibility and is unwise in a time of economic uncertainty. I-985 could also harm the state’s already stretched transit agencies, stripping an estimated $20 million over five years in federal transit funds as a result of opening HOV lanes to all traffic during non-peak hours. Additionally, the new account mandated by I-985 specifically bans the use of its funds for park and ride lots, ferries, buses and rail.

Untenable situation for SR 520 and I-90: The Chamber is playing a central role in the 520 mediation process. Although substantial progress has been made, financing the replacement continues to be an open question. Most finance plans assume more than $1 billion will be generated by tolls. Tolling 520 and not I-90, as this initiative would mandate, could have disastrous results for regional congestion.

Traffic light synchronization: Many cities across the state have already enacted the synchronization mandated by this initiative. Currently, fines from red light violations go to those cities or local jurisdictions. Under the initiative, they would be redirected to the new state “Reduce Traffic Congestion Account.” While this account does allow funds to be spent on synchronization, cities and local jurisdictions that have already installed cameras stand to lose $40 million over the next five years.

 The NO on 985 Coalition is a diverse group of Washingtonians from many different backgrounds fighting to preserve and enhance the Evergreen State’s quality of life.

Why gutting our high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes is a bad idea

September 4, 2008 by · Comments Off on Why gutting our high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes is a bad idea
Filed under: Analysis 

If Initiative 985 is approved, high occupancy vehicle (or carpool) lanes will be open to everyone at almost all hours of the day, including rush hour.

This would dramatically worsen traffic and lead to an increase in commute times for families all over Puget Sound.

The goals of the HOV system, as defined by the Department of Transportation, are:

  • To maximize the people-carrying capacity of the freeway system by providing incentives to use buses, vanpools and carpools.
  • To provide capacity for future travel growth.
  • To help reduce transportation-related pollution and dependency on fossil fuels.

Gutting HOV lanes would paralyze our bus system and deliberately punish those Washingtonians who are doing their part to reduce traffic and reduce carbon emissions by riding motorcycles or traveling together in a carpool or vanpool. That’s a step in the wrong direction that will hurt each and every one of us who shares the road.

We can’t afford for our traffic to get any worse. That’s why we have to reject I-985.

I-985 ignores the congestion audit

August 7, 2008 by · Comments Off on I-985 ignores the congestion audit
Filed under: Analysis 

In a Seattle Times op/ed piece, Floyd McKay nails I-985 for its duplicity. The measure claims that it’s carrying out the recommendations of Washington’s recent congestion audit. But it does no such thing:

Eyman maintains that I-985 supports Auditor Brian Sonntag’s “congestion” audit of the Department of Transportation. Of 22 major recommendations in Sonntag’s
report, only synchronization of traffic lights is addressed in I-985. The audit doesn’t recommend limiting tolls on Seattle’s bridges or high-occupancy toll lanes (HOTs), or opening HOV lanes in off-peak hours. It doesn’t deal with freeway artwork or red light cameras. Eyman’s initiative assumes car-generated congestion can be fixed cost-free without other forms of transportation. One of Sonntag’s four general recommendations is “increasing efforts to have people use carpools, transit and telecommuting.” Yet funds in Eyman’s RTC account are barred from buses, rail or park-and-ride.

You heard that right. Initiative 985 almost completely ignores the congestion audit, despite its claim to the contrary. (Traffic light synchronization is already underway in most places.)

Actually, I’m being too nice about this: Initiative 985 actively undermines the congestion audit. The reason State Auditor Sonntag recommended expanding alternative travel is because it is an extremely cost-effective way to solve congestion and mobility problems. It’s hard to get a better deal than multiplying the efficiency of the existing system by filling those empty seats. But 985 shuts down HOV lanes, ties-up key revenue streams, and just generally gives buses and carpools the short end of the stick.

That’s not congestion relief; that’s either confusion or ideology.

I-985: Budget buster

August 7, 2008 by · Comments Off on I-985: Budget buster
Filed under: Analysis 

The Tri-City Herald has the scoop:

[I-985] would cost the state general fund $620 million over five years.The impact on the budget deficit facing lawmakers in January would be about $290 million…

The state budget is already tight — and I-985 would just make a bad situation worse.

Raiding the general fund

July 28, 2008 by · Comments Off on Raiding the general fund
Filed under: Analysis 

I-985 raids the state “general fund” of about $575 million through the end of 2013.

What’s the general fund used for? This document (pdf) has the answers. In round numbers:

52 percent goes to education
30 percent goes to social and health services
6 percent goes to corrections
5 percent services bond debt
Less than 2 percent each go to government operations and natural resources
3.5 percent goes to “everything else” 

Take a look:So assuming the debt service is off limits, I-985 will mostly steal money from education, health, and law enforcement, to pay for pet transportation projects in the Puget Sound. Is this what taxpayers really want?

The budget impact keeps growing

July 26, 2008 by · Comments Off on The budget impact keeps growing
Filed under: Analysis 

An update on how much money I-985 raids from the general fund, by budget cycle:

’07-’09: $52 million (it’s in effect for less than half a year)
’09-’11: $238 million
’11-’13: $284 million 

$284 million is the equivalent of almost $50 of tax money from each Washington resident, from every corner of the state, to pay for road projects that will likely be concentrated in urban Puget Sound.

Only four out of Washington’s thirty nine counties have HOV lanes

July 26, 2008 by · Comments Off on Only four out of Washington’s thirty nine counties have HOV lanes
Filed under: Analysis 

I-985 turns the management of HOV lanes into a statewide decision. Yet only 4 counties have HOV lanes: Pierce, Snohomish, King, and Kitsap.

Because of a technicality, Kitsap county’s lanes aren’t even affected by I-985. So why are voters from all across the state deciding how to manage a local traffic issue that only affects three counties?

I-985 would "compound an already gloomy budget situation"

July 24, 2008 by · Comments Off on I-985 would "compound an already gloomy budget situation"
Filed under: Analysis 

The Tri-City Herald weighs in on I-985:

2 initiatives could bungle state budgetTwo citizens initiatives likely to qualify for the November ballot would compound an already gloomy budget situation if approved by voters, possibly pushing the state’s shortfall past $3 billion

[P]reliminary estimates from the Department of Revenue indicate Tim Eyman’s traffic congestion measure — Initiative 985 — would cost the state about $290 million during the next two-year budget cycle and the rest of the current one.

$290 million for a bunch of pet transportation projects sure ain’t chump change — especially at a time when the state budget’s tight anyway. So much for fiscal discipline and protecting the taxpayer.

Where’s the congestion? Seattle, mostly

July 24, 2008 by · Comments Off on Where’s the congestion? Seattle, mostly
Filed under: Analysis 

I-985 raids $125 million per year from the state general fund, to pay for pet congestion relief projects. Some of those projects aren’t such bad ideas, but most won’t do a darn thing about congestion — and some could even make the state’s transportation problems worse.

But perhaps the most galling thing about I-985 is that it siphons money from all over the state — from local town and city coffers, even — to pay for what’s predominantly a local problem that’s concentrated in a narrow corridor in Puget Sound. This state map of congestion, from p. 74 of this state congestion report (pdf link), lays out the story:

It’s a pretty crummy map, since “up” is southeast, not north. But the story is pretty clear: according to the state, the worst congestion problems are found in Puget Sound, mostly in greater Seattle.

And yet I-985 forces the whole state to decide on how to manage Seattle’s congestion — and also expects the whole state to contribute tax money to the solution. I-985 even prohibits many of the solutions that Puget Sound residents are demanding to help them manage congestion.

It’s not fair to the rest of the state, and it’s not fair to residents of Puget Sound.

I-985 raids money from the state general fund

July 24, 2008 by · Comments Off on I-985 raids money from the state general fund
Filed under: Analysis 

The Department of Revenue estimates that I-985 will take over $290 million from the General Fund by the end of the next 2-year budget cycle:

FY 2009: $51.7 million (It’d only be in effect for half the year.)

FY 2010: $114.4 million

FY 2011: $123.9 million

It raises a good question: what could you do with $290 million? Certainly, you could do better than to siphon it from all over the state to pay for some pet transportation projects in urban Puget Sound.

Where are Washington State’s HOV lanes?

July 24, 2008 by · Comments Off on Where are Washington State’s HOV lanes?
Filed under: Analysis 

I-985 “turns off” the state’s HOV lanes during most hours of the day.

Here are all the HOV lanes on Washington State highways:

Note that they’re entirely in a narrow strip of land bordering the Puget Sound — a tiny portion of the state. Over three-quarters of the HOV system is in King County alone. And yet I-985 asks folks with little understanding of local conditions, from all corners of the state, to make a decision on how to manage them. That’s just not good policy: people with good knowledge of local conditions should be making decisions about HOV lanes. Anything else just doesn’t make sense.

King County voters say: Fix congestion with transit!

July 24, 2008 by · Comments Off on King County voters say: Fix congestion with transit!
Filed under: Analysis, Citizens Speak Out 

King County voters rank traffic congestion at the top of their transportation concerns — and think that expanding public transit is the best congestion fix.

More than 450 King County residents think traffic congestion is the largest transportation problem facing the county. And they also say expanded public transit is the preferred solution.

That’s among the many results of a 65-page survey that was handed out as part of King Countywide Community Forums, an initiative designed to expand public input on local issues beyond town-hall meetings

Notably, transit is one of many solutions that I-985 leaves off the table.