Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Just say no! BIAW + Eyman = I-985

Last month, the Washington State Labor Council voted to oppose I-985, Tim Eyman’s latest brain baby. WFSE’s executive board will take up the issue later this month.

So what is I-985? The ballot title leads you to believe that I-985 will actually reduce traffic congestion, open carpool lanes, synchronize traffic lights, and increase roadside assistance. Sounds like a good idea, right? But after reading the fine print, you can boil I-985 down to being BAD for the state budget, BAD for already bad traffic, and BAD for local communities. That’s a lot of bad... all wrapped up nice & pretty with a deceitful ballot title on top.

I-985 is Bad for the State Budget:
A slowing economy has already put strains on the state budget. I-985 would make a bad situation worse, by raiding over $600 million of general fund revenues over the next five years! The general fund is already stretched thin, with cutbacks or tax increases looming. I-985 takes money from the general fund for a "congestion" slush fund. Nobody knows where that money will go! I-985 also makes it harder to pay for key road improvements by rendering road tolling completely inflexible. If it passes, paying for SR-520 and I-405 will be even harder, and would probably be impossible without new taxes. Additionally, I-985's supporters claim that it will pay for congestion relief by shifting state money away from highway art projects. They're wrong; absolutely no state highway money currently pays for art! There's simply no money to shift.

I-985 Makes Traffic Worse: I-985 contradicts the state congestion audit!
Watchful drivers, transit riders, and traffic experts agree that I-985 would make Washington's traffic even worse than it is today. I-985's supporters say that it implements the recommendations of the State Auditor's recent congestion report. They're wrong. I-985 completely ignores most of the audit's recommendations, and directly contradicts the audit's suggestions on HOV lanes and transit. Passage of I-985 would make key highway chokepoints worse. I-985 will gum up traffic on I-5, SR-520, and I-405, by turning bus/carpool lanes into general purpose lanes for 18 hours a day. I-985 will create even more congestion than we have today. (Imagine even longer backups on westbound SR-520!) I-985 would cripples carpools, vanpools, and buses. During rush hour, carpool lanes are the most efficient part of the road network: they carry more passengers (and sometimes more vehicles) each hour than general purpose lanes! I-985 restricts carpool lanes to just three hours each morning and afternoon, which will cripple their usefulness in fighting congestion. Slower and less reliable buses will encourage current transit riders to switch back to their cars, only adding to the traffic problem.

I-985 sets terrible transportation polices. It goes against common sense and the best judgment of transportation experts. It redefines rush hour to exclude times when traffic is still heavy. It tries to open left-hand off-ramps to general traffic, creating crash risks. It outlaws HOV operations on weekends and off-hours-good luck with Husky, Mariners and Seahawks games! And it could require millions of additional spending for ramp metering for existing HOV lanes that would become general purpose lanes in "off-peak" hours.

I-985 Hurts Local Communities:
Local communities have the expertise to set their own transportation priorities, based on local needs. But I-985 forces a misguided, one-size-fits-all policy on the entire state. Local communities will lose autonomy and choice. Worse, I-985 shifts local transportation funding to a nebulous "congestion relief" fund that won't help local traffic. The result: local communities spend more, and get less for their money.

I-985 limits local choices and solutions, and forces the entire state to abide by a single set of rules-even if those rules don't make sense in a local area. It limits carpool lanes all around Puget Sound to certain times of the day, even if those times don't match with local rush hours. It outlaws local bus-only lanes, even in cities where buses ease congestion. It forces spending on light synchronization-even if there are other higher local priorities, such as clearing snow or ice, that are better buys for congestion relief. And it restricts funding for some good
congestion relief ideas, such as transit and vanpools.

I-985 raids money from state transportation projects. I-985 would take a half a percent of the money that the state provides for local transportation projects, and siphon it into a new government fund that local residents will have no control over. Local taxpayers will have to make up the difference.

So please join me, brothers & sisters, by just saying NO to Tim Eyman, NO to BIAW, and NO to I-985. --Alia

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