With the passing of Initiative 976, it’s clear that Washington voters are dissatisfied with “transportation as usual.” Focusing the vast majority of transportation spending on automotive infrastructure expansion is not sustainable. Our state has already made significant investments in more efficient, environmentally friendlier, and less expensive ways of moving people and goods. The voters are telling us to do things differently and make the most of these existing investments.
AAWA believes investing in passenger rail is a key way for Washington to make better use of its existing infrastructure resources. Underserved communities statewide would benefit from reinstated passenger rail service on existing tracks, bridges, tunnels, and former stations. This service could be started at a fraction of the cost of building brand new rights-of-way. But under the current transportation funding system, passenger rail projects are difficult to get off the ground.
Therefore, we call on our elected leaders to re-evaluate ALL of our state’s transportation spending — on highways, transit, ferries, air, and rail — with these central principles in mind:
- Make the best use of the infrastructure and operational funding that we already have. Let’s stop deferring maintenance, and let’s make sure our transportation investment meets the needs of our growing economy.
- Plan our transportation system as an integrated, multimodal, sustainable, and environmentally-responsive network that can move people and goods everywhere in the state, now and for decades to come. Let’s stop looking at projects individually, and start planning for the 21st century transportation SYSTEM that we want.
- Examine the provisions that limit certain types of public funding to only a specific transportation mode. Let’s stop reserving funding just for roads, and start building projects that give all Washingtonians better access to opportunity.
The public needs its elected officials to make the hard choices necessary to turn our hard-earned, limited dollars into a functional transportation system. It should help us maintain our economic growth without sacrificing our state’s quality of life in the future. Initiative 976 is forcing us to change how we think about transportation planning and funding. We should put ALL options on the table, and make 2020 the year that we finally set our priorities straight.