By David Anderson
“State Senate leaders have announced the details of a ‘listening tour’ that will collect public input on transportation needs,” Jordan Schrader is reporting in the August 28 Tacoma News Tribune.
Given I-5’s competing-demand-for-capacity, 275 miles in our state described by Douglas B. MacDonald in Crosscut, this past May 16, as “in desperate need of repair, rehabilitation, reconstruction and modernization” why is Amtrak allowed to sidetrack millions of federal stimulus funds for dubious benefit?
Why hit the road to find out what the transportation needs are when the road – the-I-5-economic-life-line road – this vital road artery – is in need of major surgery as it is subject to traffic jams and restrictions that govern just how much and when freight can be delivered to and from the ports and industries of Western Washington?
Why a listening tour when the bridges themselves are listing, falling even, “more than a third having exceeded their design life” earning our state a C- according to the American Society of Civil Engineers?
When 67,000 cars and trucks were re-routed following the collapse of the four-lane I-5 connection spanning the Skagit River this past May, David Cay Johnston in The Daily Beast called the disaster north of Seattle a reflection of “the dire state of our bridges and highways.”
And State Senate leaders need to learn more?
The New York Times declared the “Washington State bridge collapse highlights infrastructure needs.”
Former governor Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania and Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California, together with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, issued a statement characterizing the bridge collapse as a “call to action.”
“The collapse of the Skagit River Bridge in Washington State is a timely reminder of our nation’s need to invest in critical infrastructure upgrades,” Mr. Rendell said. “Our nation’s bridges, roads and highways are deteriorating before our eyes.”
State Senate leaders should read the newspaper.
Or, speaking of listening, they should listen to one of their late colleagues who is speaking still.
The late Senator Mike Carrell wrote the following in his “Kitchen Cabinet Update” of December 17, 2010:
“We all are facing the ever-increasing congestion along the Interstate 5 corridor as it runs through our district and past Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I recently attended a hearing in the Senate that addressed some of these concerns and once again heard the continuing mantra from the (Washington) State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) that they have no money to fix the problem. One of the things that I learned from that meeting was that the capacity of I-5 (which was designed in the 1950’s) is about 60,000 cars a day. Currently, I-5 has reached its daily capacity on that stretch of highway, meaning that if we do exceed that capacity, backups are only going to get worse.
“When economic conditions improve, more people will begin to drive more often. Add to that the increased number of overseas troops returning home to the base, and the problem will only compound. DOT won’t be able to fix it with ‘traffic calming devices’ like metered onramps. I-5 is now projected to be at 72,000 cars a day within the next decade, which means the highway will be about 20% over capacity and commuters can expect to be stuck in traffic during half of the day. DOT is reporting that even if they started now, they won’t be able to fix the congestion problem for another decade, but they also say they won’t have any money to even consider starting for at least ten years. It’s conceivable that the necessary lane addition may not happen for another twenty years, at which point the freeway could be as much as 50% over capacity! That would, in essence, bring traffic to a complete standstill, which is simply unacceptable.
“One of the only positives that may come out of this is that all the legislators from the northern Puget Sound area (including King County, where the bulk of the transportation dollars are currently being spent) will have to go through this bottleneck themselves during session to experience what we’ve been living with on a daily basis.”
And Senate leaders are going on a tour? That’s what leaders do?
I hope their tour is on Friday afternoon southbound on I-5 anywhere from here to there.