seattle
photo by whizchickenonabun

Former Washington State Republican Party Chair Chris Vance has a surprisingly reasonable argument (for Crosscut, Mr Vance is usually reasonable) about the state for a plan to complete the urban highway projects that were in the RTID package that voters rejected in 2007. He sums up the debate on highways and points out that light rail has won, and rail-haters need to get over it. Personally, I don’t agree that we need to complete those projects but it’s good stuff, worth a read.

4 Replies to “Chris Vance on our Urban Highways”

  1. I don’t see it as an us and them win or lose situation at all. Nothing is for sure until it gets built (remember the monorail). Highways and transit are in many ways linked at the hip. In part that’s what the article tries to get across. An example is East LINK which is now derailed pending the State’s unwillingness to commit the funds for new HOV lanes to replace the one’s LINK will eliminate. There’s also the issue of what the DOT will charge for use of the ROW. BRT, if it’s to be effective relies on highway maintenance and construction.

    One thing that caught my eye was Mr. Vance’s claim that the State is seeing less revenue from the gas tax. Is that less as in fewer dollars this year than last year or less as in less than what they’d forcast (wished for)? The gas tax is per gallon so what’s driving down revenue? Could it be people are driving less? If so then maybe there’s not the need to expand the highways as much as was thought or at least reprioritize the way that they’re used.

    The goal of our transportation infrastructure should be to move people and goods more efficiently. That means faster and cheaper. Reducing VMT is all the rage right now. I’d like to see an efficiency metric like Vehicle Miles per Dollar to compare the different options. Rail has the potential to be the most efficient means of moving people and goods. It also has the potential to be one of the worst investments we could possibly make. The term golden spike could have very different meanings based on how well we plan.

    1. Driving is down, and people are driving more fuel efficient cars, so overall the amount of money coming from the gas tax has fallen.

    2. Nice post Bernie. In addition to comparing the modes on a VMT/$$ basis, it is increasingly important to compare modes for CO2 emmisions/capital and operating $$. I’m sure a lot of other metrics are reasonable.
      Just as LRT at any cost is unreasonable, rampant road building to satisfy the demand of the million+ newbies to the region is equally bogus.
      Even if density is mandated to 50+ per acre around all the LRT stations, that creates walkable/TOD for but 1/10 of the new arrivals.
      Where shall the other 90% live, and how shall they travel?
      I wish bus/LRT only were the answer, but unfortunately, roads will still have to carry the bulk of the load in the future(ref PSRC 2040).
      So, Mr Vance has correctly framed the debate.

  2. I don’t see how we can keep building our way out of congestion for more roads when there is no more space to build. If we look at Seattle, it is a narrow strip of land with an urban core that squeezed in, like a glass hour shape. The land area is already build up and there is no more room where the highway can be further widened or expanded. So the only way to relieve congestion would be get cars off the road, and to do that would be by giving people more options to get to work or move around which means more transit.

    Expanding the highway system or widening existing one means more encouraging more to use their cars, and then building more roads once they get congested again.

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