Northwest NEWS

April 30, 2001


Guest Editorial: Regional plan gives voters the last word

By Rep. Jeanne Edwards
   Local challenges deserve local solutions. That's the idea behind HB 2239, a bill released this week in the Legislature that would allow county executives to send local voters a package of transportation improvements, and related taxes, to alleviate the Puget Sound region's horrendous traffic problems.
   This will give voters a critical say in how local transportation problems are solved. Unlike state-imposed revenue, the transportation dollars raised locally would be used locally. Local tax dollars would pay for local transportation projects.
   This is a completely new approach to transportation funding, and it's an idea that has generated a lot of support in the Legislature. Although a number of similar proposals are currently being discussed in Olympia, this one offers the most comprehensive solution.
   Unlike other proposals, this one supports transportation choices such as buses and light rail.
   This is important since Washington's population is expected to grow by 33 percent by 2025. Building more roads simply won't work, unless we intend to cover the landscape with concrete.
   Quality of life is important to all of us. Nobody wants to live next to a crowded freeway or a congested surface street. I certainly didn't move to Bothell so I could live two blocks away from I-405.
   Unless we provide people with alternatives to driving alone in their cars, more and more of us will find freeways in our backyards, and busy thoroughfares outside our front windows.
   Dependable transportation is essential to maintain the state's economic viability. Traffic congestion wastes time and resources with more than $2 billion each year.
   One in four Washington state jobs depends on international trade. If company's can't get their products to market because freight trucks are sitting in traffic on I-405, the entire state suffers.
   The strain traffic congestion puts on the economy is felt in each of our pocketbooks as well. On average, gridlock costs residents an additional $1,165 per year, in lost time and additional fuel costs.
   The ideas laid out in HB 2239 are a big first step towards restoring our quality of life and protecting the state's economy.
   Another important difference between this bill and other similar proposals is flexibility. This proposal is flexible enough to be used throughout the state, not just in the Puget Sound region. As the state's population increases, we'll need to find proactive solutions to avoid the kind of bumper-to-bumper gridlock that has become a way of life in the Puget Sound region.
   People in Clark and Spokane counties will be able to use this plan to alleviate congestion before it threatens to choke the state economy, in a plume of exhaust.
   Right now, state lawmakers are working to solve the state's transportation crisis. Although a final plan hasn't emerged yet, we should be sure the ideas conveyed in HB 2239 are part of the ultimate solution lawmakers pass this year.
   Citizens should have the final say in how traffic problems are solved.
   Rep. Jeanne Edwards represents the 1st Legislative District including parts of Northeast King and south Snohomish counties.