Editorial: Seattle’s Aurora bridge provides a “cautionary preview” of transportation problems should I-976 pass.

Few doubt that much of Washington’s transportation infrastructure is stressed, aging, and in need of major investment. And there’s little question but that passage of I-976 would make a challenging situation worse. 

The Seattle Times editorial board provides an excellent illustration of the problems.

A cautionary preview of Washington’s future, if voters approve Initiative 976, is on display this week high above North Seattle.

The Aurora Bridge, Seattle’s fourth busiest arterial, is showing how tightly the city’s transportation infrastructure is stretched. Washington State Department of Transportation engineers shut down one of the bridge’s three southbound lanes for at least a week to replace a corroded steel beam, which has subjected thousands of drivers to tortuous stop-and-go conditions.

The temporary chokepoint portends the gloomy future for cities and highways across the state if I-976 passes next week.

The initiative would strip billions of dollars in funding of state and local transportation projects, as the Washington Research Council has written.

The Office of Financial Management estimates that, over six years, I-976 would reduce state revenues by $1.923 billion and local revenues by $2.317 billion. In 2019–21 alone, state revenues would be reduced by $478 million. Much of the state revenue reduction would accrue to the multimodal account, which funds projects including public transportation, rail, and cycling. There would also be significant impacts to the motor vehicle account and other accounts that pay for road projects and repairs…

Providing for the transportation of people and goods is a vital role of government. The significant funding reductions that would result from I-976, at both the state and local levels, would require lawmakers to rewrite transportation budgets—putting many projects and programs at risk.

State business, labor and environmental leaders agree: The risks are great.

The public has been clear and consistent: We need better roads and more transportation options. As a result, investments at the local and state level are being used to prioritize road improvements, increase safety for bridges and overpasses and expand mass transit services where they matter most.

Initiative 976 threatens to undo all of that, and will slow our traffic and the economy.

Most communities in our state have an “Aurora bridge” counterpart. The editorial concludes,

If I-976 passes, cheap car registrations will be only a token comfort while potholes grow and proliferate, and traffic backs up. The state’s transportation infrastructure is in precarious health even before the votes are counted. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ most recent Washington report card gave the state a C overall for infrastructure, with roads and transit each scoring a C-minus…

State Senate transportation chair Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, warned that a I-976 passage would lead to sweeping cutbacks of services and construction. Washington would survive this needless setback, but the time and money wasted would be immense.

Voters should insist on smarter governance and reject the ham-handed I-976.

Makes sense.