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.

A problem for replacing SR 520?

August 7, 2008 by · Comments Off on A problem for replacing SR 520?
Filed under: Noteworthy Columns 

Over at Horse’s Ass, the inimitable David Goldstein fillets I-985 in a sarcastic “endorsement.” Along the way, he makes an intriguing point:

But my favorite provision in I-985, the one that earns my endorsement, is the one that requires that tolls only be used to pay for the construction of the particular section of freeway or bridge on which they’re levied… Let’s be clear: the 520 floating bridge is going to be replaced before it sinks into the lake (or perhaps, shortly thereafter)… And all the current financing plans heavily rely on tolling both the 520 and I-90 bridges to pay for it. Remove I-90 tolls from the equation, and we not only lose a big chunk of federal funds that were predicated on tolling I-90, we also make it impossible to put any substantial toll on 520 without shifting the bulk of the traffic to its toll-free alternative.

This means we’re going to have to find a billion or so dollars elsewhere to pay for the new 520 bridge, and that money is going to come at the expense of other DOT projects throughout the region and the state.


The thing is, I-985 is confusing and tangled enough that it might still be possible for clever accountants to fund the proposed “congestion relief account” with toll revenue and then use the “congestion relief account” to fund the 520 replacement. So it could end up being a shell game of sorts, though it’s not entirely clear. And in a way that’s really one of the problems: there’s a real danger that I-985 will make transportation planning more bureaucratic and opaque, rather than clearer and more efficient.

Read Goldy’s entire post here.