Opinion

Eyman's I-985 isn't the answer to traffic congestion

Initiative 985 is the brainchild of Tim Eyman, the man some would argue is the reason the state, King County, and all cities face a rough budget road.

Eyman describes I-985 as an initiative to reduce traffic congestion that “swift-kicks Olympia in the shins.” (Web Editor's note: Read a separate editorial by Tim Eyman on I-985 by clicking here.)

You would be hard pressed to find an elected official who doesn’t want to solve the traffic congestion problem in the area, but I-985 is not the right solution.

Initiative 985 will likely make traffic congestion worse, not better.

Lake Washington commuters will be hit particularly hard. The initiative prevents tolling the I-90 bridge to help pay for the rebuild of Highway 520. This will inevitably cause big build-ups on I-90 and Highway 522 as commuters try to avoid the unavoidable high toll on the 520 bridge if I-985 is passed.

The promoters of 985 would like you to believe there is a wave-of-the-magic-wand solution to traffic congestion. Simply take money out of the state’s general fund, open up carpool lanes, synchronize all traffic signals, devote red-light-camera revenues to a “traffic congestion account” — and, presto! Problem solved!

Unfortunately, a review of the facts tells us just the opposite is true.

I-985 would take nearly $600 million out of the state’s general fund and deposit it into a traffic congestion account. Of course, there are no specific uses outlined for this money, no specific projects called out, no timeline for implementing them, and no assurance that there will be any resulting benefit from the money spent.

I-985 raids the general fund at a time when our state already faces a projected $3.2 billion revenue shortfall. This puts education and human and social services programs at risk for more than 6 million residents of Washington.

The initiative is promoted as carrying out the recommendations of a transportation audit done by the State Auditor’s Office — when in fact it directly contradicts many results of that audit. The State Auditor’s report recommended an expansion of carpools, vanpools, and transit as a way to help address congestion. I-985 would open up HOV lanes 18 hours a day, dramatically undermining the reliability of transit and the carpools and vanpools used more and more by large employers around the region. 985’s premise — that “peak” hours of congestion for carpool use are confined to 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m., is ludicrous to anyone who drives the highways and freeways of our region.

Further, I-985 takes direct aim at photo-radar enforcement programs being used by cities in our region to address red light running. On the notion that these programs are “profit motivated,” 985 would take programs established by local communities, and fines paid by offenders on local streets, and send all revenues from these programs to the state. This is nonsense, and it ignores the facts that photo-radar programs are set up to enhance safety and reduce accidents, photo-radar programs are not money-makers and that, just as it is reasonable for any business or organization to recover its costs, citizens expect local governments to do the same.

At the request of 28 member cities and in a strong show of solidarity, the Suburban Cities Association’s Board of Directors has voted unanimously to oppose I-985.

The Suburban Cities Association is a nonprofit organization serving 35 suburban cities in King County, including North Bend. Its mission is to provide leadership through advocacy, education, mutual support and networking to suburban cities in King County as they act locally and partner regionally to create livable vital communities. Members of the Suburban cities association represent nearly 54 percent of the incorporated population in King County.

• Karen Goroski is executive director of the Suburban Cities Association and can be reached at (206) 433-7170.

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