We’re very proud of Initiative 985’s congestion relief policies. Carpool lanes opened during non-peak hours, traffic lights synchronized to optimize traffic flow, accidents cleared out faster, making it clear that people want reducing traffic congestion to be the top transportation priority, all without raising taxes.
They’re positive and important policies. But they’re not the primary reason we’ve sponsored I-985.
In 2005, voters gave state Auditor Brian Sonntag, Washington’s most trusted elected official, the authority to conduct independent performance audits of state and local governments by overwhelmingly approving Initiative 900. In the years since its passage, he’s hired outside experts to learn how state and local governments can spend our tax dollars more effectively. He’s completed 11 audits, made 499 recommendations, and identified $3.2 billion in potential savings.
But rather than embracing Sonntag’s reform recommendations, Olympia keeps ignoring them.
Our primary motivation for I-985 is to show Olympia that voters don’t want higher taxes; they want government to spend more effectively the money they’re already taking from us by implementing Sonntag’s growing list of audit recommendations.
So we picked the performance audit on the state’s abysmal failure reducing traffic congestion as the cattle prod. Sonntag’s report on reducing congestion made 22 recommendations. Olympia ignored all of them.
I-985 implements common-sense reforms based on recommendations from Sonntag’s thorough investigation: Requiring local governments to synchronize traffic lights on heavily-traveled arterials and streets. This single reform reduces traffic congestion 6 to 7 percent. Clearing out accidents faster – absolutely. Opening carpool lanes to everyone during non-peak hours – it’s what other states do and illustrates that increased capacity reduces congestion. But politicians arrogantly refuse to implement any of Sonntag’s recommendations.
From Sonntag’s 2007 report: “Citizens have identified congestion as a priority, and therefore so must the Department of Transportation and the Legislature.”
Democrat Sonntag’s performance audit reported that 80 percent of citizens wanted “reducing traffic congestion” to be the top transportation priority. Taxpayers pay billions in taxes and fees every year. They expect their money to strongly support the people’s top transportation priority: Reducing the time it takes to drive our vehicles from point A to point B.
Sonntag’s audit and I-985 advocate getting better use from existing streets and highways while also addressing chokepoints with increased capacity to significantly reduce travel times for everyone. Approving I-985 tells politicians that voters want this approach.
Let me put an exclamation point on I-985’s traffic light synchronization requirement: Every city and county will benefit from I-985’s mandate that traffic flow be optimized, especially since it provides state funds to pay for its costs.
Lynnwood is a national model with digital, minute-by-minute traffic flow optimization. As reported by the Everett Herald, “Working from a cramped collection of cubicles inside City Hall, these techno wizards operate what at least one outside expert considers to be one of the best traffic management centers around. ‘The whole system is coordinated to give the best possible outcomes,’ deputy public works director Jeff Elekes said.”
I-985 guarantees that Lynnwood’s optimized traffic flow program will be
available within the borders of all 281 cities and 39 counties and won’t
require a penny of city or county funds to pay for it.
I-985 dedicates existing transportation-related revenues that are currently
being diverted to non-transportation spending.
I-985 DOESN’T RAISE TAXES, instead it dedicates red light camera profits, a
small portion of vehicle sales taxes, and “1/2% for reducing congestion” for
any transportation-related project (removes “1/2% for public art”) to
reducing congestion. I-985 guarantees that tolls on a project won’t be
diverted away from that specific project, preventing tolls from becoming
just another pot of money for politicians to spread around. And I-985
empowers Auditor Sonntag to track revenues and expenditures, helping
implement I-985’s reforms and reporting regularly to the public on its
Washington is the 5th highest taxed state in the nation – I-985 keeps us
from hitting #1.
Opponents’ proposals force taxpayers to pay more – I-985 forces politicians
to spend existing revenues more effectively, implementing immediate,
cost-effective solutions. Sonntag hired world-class transportation experts
– their professional, independent analysis showed Sonntag’s reforms will
reduce congestion 15-20%, provide $3 billion boost to our state’s struggling
economy BENEFITING EVERYONE. I-985’s opening HOV (express, carpool,
bus-only) lanes during non-peak hours reduces congestion.
Taxpayers are tapped out. I-985 tells politicians to prioritize, spending
what we already pay more effectively. Let’s tell politicians: don’t take
more from taxpayers, adopt Sonntag’s growing list of audit recommendations.
Vote “Yes” on I-985.
Tim Eyman is co-sponsor of Reduce Traffic Congestion Initiative I-985 and heads up Voters Want More Choices, a grassroots taxpayer protection organization. He can be reached at 425-493-8707, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.ReduceCongestion.org.