Washington State Must Get Into Transportation
For more than a year, governments, healthcare providers, community-based nonprofits and businesses in Washington have been responding to the public health and economic challenges posed by the COVID pandemic. Our healthcare system remains stretched and the virus continues to cause economic uncertainty for families across the state.
In addition to these major challenges, the pandemic overshadowed another pressing key issue for our future: the state of Washington’s transportation infrastructure. As remote workers reduced the number of car trips in the region and across the state, funding for transportation declined. While we seek to reclaim and reopen our economy, the return of more frequent traffic jams will remind us of the critical and ever-growing need to maintain and expand our infrastructure and transportation options.
Washington has too many aging bridges that raise security concerns. Too many rural communities and urban neighborhoods are served by roads in need of repair and updating. And too many residents of the central Puget Sound area continue to live in time-consuming and environmentally damaging traffic jams as past investments in transportation and transit have not kept up with the growth. demographic or economic.
Without new public funding for transport, these problems will persist and worsen. The legislator must remedy this situation by coming together and adopting a transport revenue package as soon as possible. We urgently need funding to maintain and preserve our existing system, build new critical projects, and expand transit systems.
A healthy economy depends on the safe and efficient transportation of products, whether it’s airplane parts destined for a Boeing factory, Wenatchee apples destined for export, or groceries destined for the shelves of your local supermarkets. . Transport links also go a long way in dictating the quality of life. Employees going to work, parents taking their kids to school, patients going to the doctor, even fans going to a Seahawks game, no one wants to waste their time stuck in traffic.
Lawmakers understand this; they see the need. They are right to have a sense of urgency and to engage in serious negotiations outside of the legislative session. Ultimately, they have to come to a consensus on a transportation revenue package.
As lawmakers respond to current needs, they should also think strategically about the transportation investments that will best position the region and the state in the long term. We have the power to create exciting new economic opportunities, reduce congestion and alleviate housing shortages by funding innovative transportation alternatives such as a very high speed rail system connecting Vancouver, British Columbia, Seattle and Portland. . It is a major project that will be a game-changer for future generations.
At the federal level, there are encouraging signs that federal funding may become available to help. The infrastructure package and the budget reconciliation proposal include potential funding opportunities for high-speed rail. But federal funding often requires some form of state matching, and our state will need to clearly demonstrate that we are serious about investing in our future.
The sooner the Legislature has a plan to move forward, the better. It must include both immediate investment plans and a long-term vision for the future. The need does not go away; in fact, it will only grow as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic. And we know from experience that the costs will only increase in the future.
In addition to meeting the critical needs of our transportation infrastructure, a set of transportation revenues will help our state emerge from this pandemic faster, creating jobs and supporting our recovering economy. Progress can and must be made on this pressing issue, whether in a special legislative session later this fall or early in the 2022 regular session.
Our transportation challenges have a disproportionate impact on everyone, and with each passing day, that impact grows. We must act quickly to ensure the best results and continue to build a bright future for all people and businesses in our state.