I-405 near Canyon Park. Photo by SounderBruce

Marko Liias:

OLYMPIA – On Tuesday, Senate and House Transportation Committee Chairs Sen. Marko Liias, D – Everett, and Rep. Jake Fey, D – Tacoma, unveiled Senate Bills 5974 and 5975 and House Bills 2118 and 2119 — Move Ahead Washington — a 16-year transportation proposal for Washington state.

The $16 billion package provides historic funding for preserving our infrastructure, combating climate change by reducing emissions, expanding safe, affordable transit options, and addressing harm caused in communities of color from our existing transportation system.

There are technically two distinct bills here being yoked together. One would direct about $5B collected via the Climate Commitment Act towards transit and multimodal projects. This represents an unprecedented investment in transit from a state government that has traditionally left such things up to local jurisdictions. It includes operating funds, free youth passes and a down payment on some unspecified high-speed rail projects.

The second would take $11B from various sources (notably NOT a new gas tax) and direct it towards (mostly) highway projects, including a significant amount of highway widening.

Full lists of projects and revenue sources here. More coverage from the Times.

149 Replies to “WA Dems propose a $16B transpo package”

  1. The taking of various non-gas tax funds to large numbers of highway widening projects seems less than ideal for sustainability.

    1. And on the other hand, the fact that Inslee and the Democrats are unwilling to raise the gas tax is the primary reason I don’t believe them when they say they care about climate change. Inslee’s presidential campaign always struck me as deeply dishonest when placed in the context of his policy decisions as governor.

      Climate change cannot be both an existential threat and an insufficient reason to raise the gas tax to displace general fund spending on highway projects, regardless of whether the projects themselves are sustainable.

      1. They can’t raise the gas tax because there are too many voters out there who care enough about climate change to vote for politicians who promise a magic wand to solve it, but only to the extent that filling up their 23 mpg SUV gets not even the slightest bit more expensive. Plus, lots of people are very irrational about gas prices, to the point where the slightest change in gas prices can have a disproportionate psychological impact (car tabs are similar).

    2. It’s the first time in my memory the state has proposed substantial improvements in transit funding. So it’s a start. It invests in two RapidRide lines, three Swift lines, and similar lines in Tacoma, Spokane, and Vancouver, and part of Tacoma Dome Link. That’s more BRT, enhanced bus, and Link corridors than I’d have ever expected the state to fund all at once, and it will accelerate those. Maybe the state will start doing more of it later.

      I’m not thrilled by the highways or the lack of a gas tax, but you can look at it as a bribe to get Republican, suburban, and rural legislators to vote for it. 85% of the state’s population is outside Seattle, and 90% of those primarily drive, think highways are needed, and if their representatives don’t include those highways they’ll replace them with representatives who will. It’s too bad they’re not willing to pay for those highways with a gas tax, but that’s what drivers always do. And the gas tax is getting increasingly problematic as more cars are electric or hybrid.

      My biggest pet peeve is the Columbia River I-5 project. I’d rather see a substantial increase in transit across the river.

      And lately I’ve been thinking about a heresy. Do we really need to complete the west end of the 520 project? What if we just leave it as is? A lid with a park and bike trail would be nice, but I’d rather have more RapidRide lines.

      1. I’m skeptical that very many Republican or rural legislators are going to be voting for this, even with all the highway expansion. The Republican party really just doesn’t like spending money on anything, if they can help it (even if what little money they are willing to spend on transportation is 100% highways).

        As to 520, I think some work is necessary. The HOV exit ramp to Montlake is important for buses. The Portage Bay bridge is nearing its end-of-life and is vulnerable to and earthquake. And, the new Portage Bay bridge should have a better merge with the exit ramp, plus shoulders. But, the entire extra lane, along with connection to the I-5 express lanes should be scrapped, as it has no value to transit and simply shifts traffic bottlenecks from 520 to downtown exit ramps.

      2. 520 is like the US2 project – the options are replace or remove, not ‘no-build,’ given the age of the trestles. In both cases, I don’t mind the extra lane if it creates an effective HOV bypass. For 520, It seems like KCM will want to run some 520 express buses that serve SLU, which may be a useful service that compliments East Link service across the lake, but there could be an argument that 100% of 520 buses should simply terminate at UW, a routing that will be much improved once the Montlake Lid is complete.

      3. I like seeing the money allocated to rural and small city transit, the oft-neglected transit stepchild (especially by a blog that has a big city in its name and whose commenters are often clueless about rural transit). Rural areas need good transit too, and the money going to places like Bellingham, Skagit, Yakima and Columbia County is a good thing.

      4. Is the current Portage Bay viaduct at seismic risk? Certainly, it need not have six lanes. The reversible lane connection is odd as transit routes should be two-way. Is the Legislature nimble enough to go backward on a project funded with the 2015 statewide package?

      5. The Portage Bay segment of 520 is supported on seismically unstable hollow columns – so yes, the west end of the 520 is pretty important

      6. The HOV lanes seem excessive for that section, given Link will serve just about all of the transit riders. But there is value from a carpool standpoint, as well as events at the Seattle Center.

        I’m sure that we can find worse examples of excess spending with this bill, but from what I’ve heard, this is a good proposal. There are bound to be things we don’t like, but this is far more balanced, with far fewer obvious boondoggles than previous proposals.

      7. I’m skeptical that very many Republican or rural legislators are going to be voting for this, even with all the highway expansion.

        I agree. It really isn’t Republicans, let alone rural Republicans. It is more suburban Democrats who are afraid of losing their seat to Republicans. By supporting freeway projects, they gain favor by locals who really want those improvements.

        In a different time, you could probably find a solid coalition of left wing, urban Democrats and fiscally conservative, rural Republicans who would vote against things like the 167/509 expansion, or a huge bridge to Portland. But those on the right are more comfortable making political points than trying to actually accomplish anything, leaving the left with no alternative but to compromise with suburban moderates in their own party.

      8. Transportation pork is usually bipartisan. However since the progressive Democrats decided to exclude Republicans since bonding was not required it assured that R’s would all vote no, so it played right into the hands of moderate and suburban D’s who suddenly held all the power, and their constituents want roads and bridges.

        Still urban progressives probably got more than they would have if R’s were needed, although my guess is R projects costs a lot less than suburban moderate projects.

        I am sure there will be pay back. This is not a 16 year transportation bill: it is 8 two year transportation bills, and most of the big projects will take many years and be subject to many “amendments” by future legislatures, especially since none of the projects are bonded.

      9. The last time Washington had divided government, Democrats kept pushing for a transportation package, but kept getting shot down by Republicans, who didn’t want to raise any taxes to pay for it. Lots of projects in this package, including the Columbia River crossing, SR-167, etc. were in that one too.

        It was only when Democrats got unified control of state government that the 2016 transportation package was able to pass. It’s only transit provision of any substance was authorizing the ST3 vote. Direct state money for transit was essentially zero.

        There is a part of me that sometimes wonders if a divided state government actually leads to lower carbon emissions than unified Democratic control – the scenario being, fewer highways being built outweighing all of the climate bills that could only pass with just Democrats. When push comes to shove, I think the answer is “no”, that, eventually, Democrats would agree to fund the highway pork by cutting school funding, or something else, rather than raising taxes, but it’s still a question I sometimes ask myself.

      10. How can you include Republicans when what they want is to eliminate the transit and multimodal part of the state budget and redirect it to highways and cancel the climate goals? They had a commentary or editorial in the Seattle Times along these lines.

      11. @asdf2 — Transportation projects are usually bipartisan. A few Democrats and Republicans vote against it based on principal, but most just vote for the compromise. This was the case in 2015 — the bill would not have passed without Republican votes (especially in the Senate, which was held by Republicans then). https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/gov-inslee-gets-washington-moving-again-major-transportation-investments

        That bill had the 167/509 project, what I consider to be the worst waste of highway money in recent memory. It had bipartisan support, as expected. It had some good stuff, but not as much good stuff as this proposal.

  2. Marko Liias reaching into drivers’ wallets yet again for higher fees. The increases in the 2015 package wasn’t enough apparently.

    He will not be getting my vote again.

    1. The issue isn’t the fees, it’s what the money is going to. If the projects are needed, then not approving them harms residents. If the projects aren’t needed, then that’s a reason to reject them. You can’t just look at taxes in a vacuum as if they don’t fund anything, because that’s false.

      1. The significant fee increases are for new plates and new licenses, which pretty much anyone over the age of 18 today has already paid, or any new migrants to the state will have to pay. The fee increases are explicitly for the Move Ahead WA account, where all this transit funding is coming from.

        For folks with existing plates or licenses, I see no significant increase in fees worth kvetching about. License renewals increased from $4 to $7. I can’t find if registration renewals increased – it doesn’t look like they have. The major new income is on carbon fees for fuel producers and importers, so we’ll see how they pass that down.

      2. Here’s what the fee increases represent, Nathan:

        Vehicle License Plate Fee- original, +400%
        replacement, +200%
        Motorcycle License Plate Fee-
        original, +400%
        replacement, +200%

        Stolen Vehicle Check Fee-

        Dealer Temporary Permit Fee-

        Enhanced Driver’s License and Identicard Fee-

        Driver’s License Photo/Update Fee-

        Frankly, it’s a chicken-shit move to avoid asking for tax increases elsewhere. There are many other options just being left on the table because, well, Marko et al must feel that they are politically infeasible and they just don’t want to have those battles*. But we will never really know unless they do.

        On a side note, I happen to pay a county road tax every year that is a significant part of my property tax liability. This a dedicated funding mechanism that goes into the development, operation and maintenance of the transportation infrastructure system in unincorporated Snohomish County. This includes more than 200 bridges and an estimated 1,650 miles of roadway throughout the county. All other counties, including King, have similar funding streams for supporting their transportation infrastructure. In most cases, the funding is woefully inadequate and has resulted in stressed budgets and backlogs of deferred projects. Since buses also run on these same county roads, just like in the incorporated areas, as well on state and interstate infrastructure, it’s not like it’s an either/or type of proposition. The roads need funding assistance as well.

        *(I’m speaking from some experience here. After law school, I worked in the NYS legislature when we were working on various transportation funding packages, including doing something about the enormous needs of the MTA. This was back in the 80s and convincing folks in Albany to get behind a funding package for the MTA at that time was no small feat.)

      3. You could say that about any proposal in this state though. Why are B & O taxes so high, hurting small businesses who gross (not net) a substantial amount? Why are license fees for everything from nurses to hair salons so expensive? Why are sales taxes so high?

        It is because the voters are stupid, and don’t support an income tax. We have the most regressive tax system in the country as a result. An increase in the gas tax would make way more sense, but with gas prices high right now, no one wants to touch it.

      4. “It is because the voters are stupid, and don’t support an income tax….”

        I don’t disagree with anything you’ve stated here. Still, that doesn’t make it any less of a chicken-shit move by Marko et al.

        Honestly, I don’t even know why this is being proposed in an even-year session.

      5. I think a constitutional amendment to allow a state (but not city) income tax could have a chance of passing IF the amendment like in CO limited TOTAL state taxes to a percentage of state GDP.

        Voters are not stupid. They simply don’t believe the push for a state income tax is about tax equity at all, but about increasing tax revenue. .

        And they are correct, which is why you will never see D’s include a cap on taxes in an amendment to allow a state income tax, and the endless “chicken shit” tax increases the D’s constantly propose proves this to the voters, in part because these tax increases are so regressive.

    2. And just so we are clear as to what proposed HB 2119 will mean for driver’s licenses, here’s the actual language. Washington already has one of the most expensive (and complicated) driver’s licensing programs in the nation.* The additional $24 referenced in section 4(b) below will put us at the top.

      “(4) Beginning ((on July 23, 2017)) October 1, 2022, the fee for an enhanced driver’s license or enhanced identicard is ((thirty-two dollars)) $56, which is in ADDITION [caps mine] to the fees for any regular driver’s license or identicard. If the enhanced driver’s license or enhanced identicard is issued, renewed, or extended for a period other than eight years, the fee for each class is ((four dollars)) $7 for each year that the enhanced driver’s license or enhanced identicard is issued, renewed or extended.

      “(5)(a) The first $32 of the enhanced driver’s license and enhanced identicard fee under this section must be deposited into the highway safety fund unless prior to July 1, 2023, the actions described in (a)(i) or (((b))) (ii) of this subsection occur, in which case the portion of the revenue that is the result of the fee increased in section 209, chapter 44, Laws of 2015 3rd sp. sess. must be distributed to the connecting Washington account created under RCW 32 46.68.395.

      “(b) $24 of the enhanced driver’s license and enhanced identicard fee under this section must be deposited into the move ahead WA flexible account created in section 402 of this act. If the enhanced driver’s license or enhanced identicard is issued, renewed, or extended for a period other than eight years, the amount deposited into the move ahead WA flexible account created in section 402 of this act is $3 for each year that the enhanced driver’s license or enhanced identicard is issued, renewed, or extended.”

      1. the enhanced driver’s license
        Just get a Passport. WA is all about generating revenue with very little value. I dropped my MC endorsement years ago. They could have just collected the $2-4 per year forever but got greedy instead. Same thing is happening with many people I know regarding the Discover Pass. Good ideas but there’s a limit to what people will pay for little to no benefit.

        Regarding the new plate fee, WA now uses a vinyl overlay instead of painted (powder coated?) plates. Your plates will fail. I guess that’s why they quit demanding replacement plates at a fixed interval; they knew you’d be back if you own a car more than 10 years that isn’t a trailer queen.

  3. I understand when big projects need specific state assistance. However, most of the listed projects here are small projects listed apparently by politics rather than a systemic needs evaluation. I’m not sure if they are equitable either when it comes to disadvantaged communities.

    Also, I feel MPO’s should have a say in the spending of money in their areas. That’s why their roles were made do important in Federal funding authorizations for the past 30 years.

    I bristle at detailed pork barrel bills like this. The chosen projects seem to go around a good planning processes so it feels “anti-planning” to me. The public cannot be sure if these projects are needed as much as other ones not on the list.

    1. “systemic needs evaluation” is politics hiding behind a spreadsheet. It may be better policy, but it is still politics.

      1. The first thing I thought of was the PSRC, but I was confused by the acronym and it sounded like smaller entities. I don’t see much difference between whether the state allocates it or PSRC does. The PSRC might be better because it knows more about local conditions and might be willing to have a larger transit share if the state allows it.

      2. Yeah, many of those widening projects like 18 an d 167 are widening projects thatvare on the PRSC list of priorities.

        And as the urbanist mentioned, dont be fooled by them being categorized as “multimodal.” Look at the details of almost any and the are usually 99% widening and expansion of general purpose lanes.

      3. Greater Seattle dominates WA politics, so there probably isn’t much of a gap between PSRC and WaLeg. In other states, the MPOs and state legislatures have very different views on how Federal money should be spent.

  4. What is “S 356th Street – Link Light Rail Access” ? That’s in Federal Way (district 30), but 356th street is south of the likely SFW station (at 352nd), so curious what this project is intended to do.

    1. It’s going to add a SB exit at 356th connecting to a new roundabout which will allow drivers to access the new station from the south without having to go though the main SR18/348th interchange

      1. That seems like a useful addition (didn’t realize the SB exit onto 161 is only from 18, not I5), but to call that a transit project is rather ridiculous. Only a tiny fraction of the vehicles using that exit will interact with the Link station, as evident by the fact that 356th was expanded from 2 to 4 lanes heading towards 99.

  5. Looks like a good package to me – unprecedented amounts of state funding for transit, huge investment in electrifying the ferry system, finishes the last round of megaprojects (167, 405, 509, 520), replaces the deathtrap Columbia river bridges and gets light rail to Vancouver, advances the work the Nisqually Tribe is doing to fix the damage I-5 did to the river delta, and spreads a lot of funding around for trail and pedestrian improvements.

  6. It is important to realize this is a $16.8 billion transportation package over 16 years, or $1 billion/year. The legislature can only appropriate actual monies for each two-year budget cycle. If inflation continues at its current rate each dollar today will be worth around 40 cents 16 years from now, and $3.5 billion of that $16.8 billion needs to comply with the court order on culverts for salmon NOW. To not assume the cost of these proposed transportation projects is not underestimated by around 50% in the bill would be very foolish. This is a political, not a transportation, document.

    The only significant difference is the one-time funding from federal Covid monies (which has increased our federal debt to over $30 trillion) and the carbon commitment fund (which is based on estimates over 16 years) has allowed Democrats to forego issuing bonds, which means R votes are not necessary. Here is a quote from The Wire, an online non-partisan legislative newsletter that is free to subscribe to:


    “That process has traditionally relied on the state issuing bonds backed by revenue from the gas tax and other sources. Bonds — putting the state in debt — require a supermajority of the Legislature and thus votes from minority Republicans.

    “But a unique confluence of new sources of money for roads, ferries, transit, and other modes of transportation is allowing majority Democrats to toss out that system and pay for the plan without issuing debt.

    “The $16.8 billion, 16-year transportation package rolled out by Democrats on Tuesday includes $5.4 billion from the Climate Commitment Act, the state’s new cap-and-trade system for major producers of carbon emissions. That law was specifically written to direct significant money toward reducing the carbon footprint of the state’s transportation system.

    “The package also includes $3.4 billion in new federal infrastructure money and a highly unusual $2 billion subsidy from the state’s general fund, which doesn’t normally get tapped for this kind of spending. The general fund is flush from that other big influx of federal money, the COVID aid we like to think of as Uncle Joe’s Pile of Cash (UJPoC).”


    It is true there isn’t an increase in the gas tax, but gas prices are up over 60% at the pump which has resulted in inflation in other core goods like food, and most expect inflation alone will likely lead to the Democrats losing both houses of Congress in 2022, so inflation is not something a politician should take likely, and not surprisingly inflation is now Biden’s top concern because it his everyone, without any exemptions, especially the poor and elderly on fixed incomes (social security). If inflation and errors in gas permitting and production had not increased the cost of gas at the pump imagine the amount of money the state could raise through an increase in the gas tax to equal the current price at the pump. Instead D’s are going to get hammered in the 2022 elections based on the price of gas.

    The Democrats’ 16-year transportation plan is really a 16-year progressive dream wish list, depending on who controls the legislature over the next 16 years. It is very unlikely large amounts of federal money will be allocated in the future.

    This plan is heavily based on the PSRC’s 2050 Vision Statement, but even the PSRC admitted its 2050 Vision Statement was out of date the day it was signed due to Covid.

    It is based on 2010–2018 regional trends, and estimates large regional population increases, continued urbanization, downtown Seattle continuing as the transportation and business hub, and came before the shocking revelations about project cost estimates by ST, ridership estimates on light rail, and operation cost shortfalls (which led to the PSRC’s TOD model to handle population growth that likely is not coming), and WFH.

    In fact the 2050 Vision Statement specifically relied upon the fact the pandemic would be temporary (almost 2 years ago) and omitted it from the report based on the assumption the report could be revisited, which of course it has not. Nearly every assumption in the 2050 Vision Statement has been significantly changed by the pandemic.

    When it comes to climate change or carbon emissions I don’t blame Inslee for the fact that during his 9 years as governor emissions have skyrocketed (except for 2012 during the height of the recession, and ironically during the pandemic due to WFH which of course undermines the assumptions in the 2050 Vision Statement and the proposed transportation bill).

    What I mind is Inslee’s pimping of global warming for all his proposals that really simply benefit his special interests, like upzoning to pay back the developers and builders and realtor groups who are the three biggest proponents and contributors to D’s.

    Significantly reducing carbon emissions will take time, and will have to address in order: electrical generation (especially PSE, without gaps in production of electricity), transportation which will require EV’s because people won’t shift to transit and in fact are moving away from transit, and WFH which ironically undermines most of the other assumptions in the 2050 Vision Statement and the proposed transportation bill because someone working from home doesn’t need TOD, or transit.

    One of the ironies I see is Metro’s eastside transit restructure plan for when East Link opens basically rejects the assumptions in the 2050 Vision Statement and in this transportation bill.

    Inslee has it right when it comes to EV’s and charging stations and tax breaks, except he like everyone else has to wait for the technology, which is very close. Biden is taking the same approach.

    The reality is no matter who controls the legislature in four years bonding will likely be necessary to pursue any of these projects, which means a bipartisan bill. The real question at that time will be population growth over the next four years (which is less than 1%/year today), WFH, transit ridership, and ST’s financial mess. IMO the PSRC and legislature are pursuing an ideology rather than a housing/transportation plan that reflects the changes from Covid, and we have seen from ST what happens when ideology is the driving force when it comes to transportation when it is so hard to get citizens to do what they don’t want to do.

    1. Given that we are just coming off our largest peak of the pandemic (times 4), don’t you think it’s too early to start buying billboards saying “Last one of the bus, please turn out the lights?”.

      I have gotten on a bus only about a dozen times in the last 2 years. I plan on multiplying that by 100 in the next 2 years.

      Given the projects are heavily weighted towards building more general purpose lanes, I am struggling to see how that is a driving force of an ideology of the climate driven governor. You aren’t making much sense by the conclusion of your novel.

      1. “ Given the projects are heavily weighted towards building more general purpose lanes…”

        Can you substantiate that?

        405 and 520 add HOV and or BRT lanes, but no general purpose lanes; the I-5 bridge over the Columbia is a replacement for the existing bridge – where the designs are being finalized, and the big unknown is whether the new capacity will be HOV, BRT, or rail for a TriMet extension. And the US 2 trestle gets just enough to retrofit or replace already existing capacity with some improvements to the interchanges at either end to enhance efficiency – not an expansion

        Where’s all the ‘significant highway widening’ and ‘general purpose lanes’ everyone is complaining about?

      2. It doesn’t exist. The main widenings that aren’t HOV or tolled are SR18 over Tiger Mountain which is as much a safety project as a capacity project, and fixing the mess in Gorst on SR3/16 which is also unsafe in addition to being a huge bottleneck.

      3. My focus is on S. King and Pierce, so that’s what I looked at. 18, 167, widening if I-5 near JBLM.

        All hugely expensive project that are pulled from PSRC priorities. The PSRC is referring to them as “multimodal,” but really it’s just a greenwashing, with meandering, often useless paths to nowhere using a tiny pittance of the budget to give just the veneer that they are anything other than the road-widening projects that they really are.

        The I-5 project is HOV, but they could easily and much more cheaply just take a general purpose lane. But they dare not. You’d think they’d have learned form the 20 years of hell they are about to complete to add HOV near the Tacoma dome.

      4. 18 is pure widening. There is no other way to spin that. And actually, much of the issue will take care of itself after completion of the massive, incredibly expensive building of a huge highway called 167.

        Down in these parts, it’s all highway expansion. maybe a few bucks to get to the dome in 2033 instead of 2034. And if the the politicians beg on their hands and knees, maybe get a few bucks for buses to make them barely useful instead of their current state of completely useless.

        for Pierce county, this is all about making single occupancy cars go faster.

      5. “Given that we are just coming off our largest peak of the pandemic (times 4), don’t you think it’s too early to start buying billboards saying “Last one of the bus, please turn out the lights?”.

        No, what I am saying is:

        1. We are talking about $1 billion/year over the next 16 years, with the first $2.5 billion (out of $3.5 billion) going toward complying with the court order on removing culverts for salmon. The ST “realignment” alone raises $48 billion supposedly, except inflation will exceed revenue in the extension years. So don’t get too excited about any projects more than 2 years out.

        2. The legislature can only appropriate for the two-year budget, not 16 years. So the next 14 years of projects are up to the next legislature, and ones after that.

        3. All of these “projects” are at least 1/3 underestimated, probably closer to 1/2 if history is any guide ( especially a dozen years out), with a dollar that is shrinking around 10%/year due to inflation, especially in this area. The federal money is over, and R’s are certain to take at least one house of Congress. The next transportation budget, if it is to complete half of these projects, will require bipartisanship because bonding will be required. The idea the legislature will not have to bond for transportation over the next 16 years is foolish.

        4. Planning for where to spend $16.8 billion over the next 16 years in the midst of a pandemic is probably unwise. I am sure you said a year ago you would be riding the bus 100X more than you are today. Do you really think Covid is going away completely? Even NY is lifting mask mandates indoors, except on public transit, which means folks — even transit junkies — are terrified of Covid on public transportation. If transit riders like you are afraid to ride public transit what do you think the non-transit nuts like commuters feel?

        5. You have to maintain what you build. That concept never gets through, which is why our transportation system is so run down. Maintenance and operations cannot always be secondary thoughts because they don’t sell politically. Seattle alone has $3.5 billion in unfunded bridge repair and replacement.

        6. I don’t think the commuter transit rider is coming back, or the car commuter either. If that is the case that undermines all the PSRC assumptions on ridership and operational funding, and housing. They are not coming back because they did not like riding transit to work and back, don’t like the current urban scene, and that will not change even if Covid does go away completely.

        I don’t know what the future will be. I don’t think we will magically return to pre-pandemic life when it comes to commuting to work, driving, and especially riding transit if you don’t have to.

        I don’t have any particular objection to the projects, I just don’t know if the drivers or transit riders will be there. I am not a big fan of “induced demand”. I like Ross’s approach in which transit mode and frequency is based on actual demand, which tells you what “induced demand” will likely be in the future: the same. Unless Tom Terrific is correct and millions settle here fleeing global warming because this region will somehow be exempt, and Covid and its memory completely disappear.

        It is nearly impossible to get folks to do what they don’t want to do. So just make sure folks WANT to ride transit where huge amounts are being spent, make sure folks are going to want to drive during peak times which drives most of the road widening projects (because there is no congestion today), and that we understand the maintenance and operation costs before we blow 16 years of transportation funding. Bonding over the next 14 years will probably force this reality on what is now a legislature that thinks money grows on (federal) trees.

        Look, progressives like this bill because they think it better balances transit and roads, their constant complaint. Great, except no one is riding transit today, ST is effectively broke, and as Rogoff noted will not have the farebox recovery to cover operations.

        In two years there will be a new transportation budget, most of this money will be gone, R’s will have made some gains, and bonding will be required which means bipartisanship. So what projects will be acceptable to both sides in two years for the fourteen years after that. I don’t really care, but I do want the funding to follow the riders and drivers, wherever they may be, which for me means where they are today, and tomorrow, not 30 years in the future based on manipulated estimates and “induced demand”.

      6. HWY 18 is not pure widening. It makes sense to have truck climbing lanes over Tiger Mountain given this route’s E-W port related impacts. It also has NO MEDIAN + heavy freight traffic which has led to many horrific head-on fatalities, one of the deadliest stretches of road in the state. The price tag for this project is big not because of the widening, but the 30+ fish barrier’s being corrected as well as multiple landslide controls being added. It’s challenging terrain but very important for freight mobility, safety, and salmon.

      7. “HWY 18 is not pure widening. It makes sense to have truck climbing lanes over Tiger Mountain given this route’s E-W port related impacts. It also has NO MEDIAN + heavy freight traffic which has led to many horrific head-on fatalities, one of the deadliest stretches of road in the state”

        That isn’t correct. The most dangerous roads in the state are all multilane roads, almost always with a median. Harts pass being the exception.

        I would wager that widening will make 18 more dangerous, not less.

      8. The I-5 Bridge replacement is more about safety and longevity than it is a highway expansion. It WILL have some sort of dedicated transit way and will necessarily be tolled. Oregon is not going to do anything else on their side, at least, not any time soon. So even though the bridge will have new capacity, the roads in Oregon can’t forward the cars it might carry, so the damage probably won’t be too great.

        The thing is, there need to be two reliable routes for freight, and the current northbound bridge is 102 years old. It needs replacing, and it makes little sense just to replace it and not the southbound span as well.

        Folks in Puhget Sound need that food lifeline to California.

        Clark County outside Vancouver is pretty empty. If one says “No light rail to Tacoma and Everett, one should also say “No light rail to Vancouver.” If the river weren’t there, then “Sure, build it! It’s only two miles.”

        But the river IS there and crossing it with LRT has lots of geometrical problems, so it is very expensive per mile. Downtown Vancouver has had a BIG boom in sizable buildings; it’s looking a bit like Roosevelt, but even taller along the river. There might be good all-day ridership if they built it, but for commuters it would be terrible because of the ten stations on the Oregon side BEFORE one gets to Downtown Portland. For folks headed to Silicon Rainforest. It’s also way out of the way.

        So a busway is better.

      9. Well if you think SR 18 improvements won’t make it safer, you’re at odds with pretty much everyone who designs roads in Washington. In 2018 SR 18 on this stretch of road saw 6 fatalities because of a lack of a median.

      10. It also looks like the majority of fatalities are in sections that are 2 lane divided. So, yeah.

    2. I find it hard to believe that a group using language like “Uncle Joe’s Pile of Cash” is non-partisan. That’s only half a step away from “Let’s Go Brandon” territory.

      1. You should subscribe A Joy. I don’t know what you object to in the part I quoted, but here is some more you will probably like, which usually determines whether you think the source is accurate:

        “With no need to court Republican votes, Democratic transportation leaders wrote a spending plan much more focused on transit and non-driving forms of transportation than previous plans. There’s $3 billion for transit and more than $1.2 billion for projects and programs aimed at pedestrians and bicyclists. That’s possible in part because of the smaller reliance on gas tax money, which can only be spent on highways and the vehicle-hauling aspects of the ferry system.

        “There’s also around $1.5 billion for the ferry system, including $400 million from the cap-and-trade money to begin electrifying that fleet, which has a huge carbon footprint.

        “That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of asphalt. Replacing the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River is down for $1 billion, widening State Route 18 in East King County gets $640 million, and the U.S. Highway 2 trestle in Snohomish County gets $210 million. Those projects are essential for nailing down the last few votes if the package is going to pass.

        “We mention Highway 2 because it’s something of a symbol of the way things used to work. The trestle was the pet project of former Transportation Committee Chair Steve Hobbs, one of the architects of the last bipartisan transportation package. That plan included the infamous “poison pill” provision blocking that effectively blocked the state from imposing a low-carbon fuel standard until last year.

        “Hobbs, you’ll remember, was recently elevated to Secretary of State by Gov. Jay Inslee in a deft piece of realpolitik that removed the Snohomish County moderate as chair of the committee. One of the consequences of that move was the ascension of Sen. Marko Liias to the chair of Transportation. Liias, D-Edmonds, is much more aligned with the progressive wing of the caucus.”

        When asked about the one-party nature of the plan on Tuesday, Liias smiled and noted that no Republican cast a vote in favor of the Climate Commitment Act last year.


        There is also a good article on redistricting, Senate votes to leash up Klickitat County cougar hunts, and gas tax increases in OR and ID because “the plan assumes a new tax on fuel exported from Washington’s five refineries. Those plants — two in Anacortes, two at Cherry Point in Whatcom County, one in Tacoma — produce nearly all of the fuel consumed in the Pacific Northwest. The plan assumes the 6-cent tax will raise some $2 billion over the 16-year plan.”

        Raising transportation revenue by increasing gas prices in OR and ID is something we should all be in favor of.

    3. I’d be curious what you think the best policy mix would be to accomplish reductions in carbon emissions. Personally, I think upzoning makes a lot of sense. Not only does it reduce the need for VMT (thus making the goals of electrifying transportation easier) but it also helps to reduce building emissions, which is the fastest growing source of emissions in the State, but one you neglected to mention.

      Moreover, it seems clear from the relatively high price of housing in core urban areas that people WANT to live in these areas – allowing the construction of more housing in high demand areas is pro-market and pro-climate. I know you’re a big believer that work from home will lead to an epochal shift in housing and transportation preferences. I’m skeptical of that, but we might as well let the market sort it out.

      1. The market will sort it out Brendan. As I have stated many times it is nearly impossible to get folks to do something they don’t want to do. Pres. Carter thought the trick was to wear a sweater and turn the thermostat to 68 degrees. Instead Americans elected Reagan, although Carter’s appliance efficiency standards have made huge advances in efficiency.

        If you are asking me how to reduce carbon emissions, I would look at the biggest emitters of carbon: electricity generation, transportation, industry, meat and farming, commercial and residential. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

        Transportation has mostly to do with commuting to an urban core to work, and moving goods, especially ships. https://www.lngtransfer.com/news/the-16-biggest-ships-produce-more-pollution-than-all-the-cars-in-the-world/ In 2012 carbon emissions fell in WA because so many were out of work; during the pandemic carbon emissions have declined because of WFH. WFH is by far the best way to reduce carbon from driving. Electrifying buses will help a little, but at great cost which means less frequency. So much concrete is poured and so much heavy equipment used in building light rail I wonder how much carbon is saved there. Both Inslee and Biden see EV’s as the future and so do I because they ask no sacrifices from their owner, emit no carbon, and are actually better machines than a gas-powered car, although WFH is still better because you need less road capacity. I don’t know how you replace planes in a country as large as America.

        Electricity generation is tricky. Probably the new brand of small nuclear plants Gates and investors are building make the most sense, along with solar and wind that both need backups. Both have a hard time competing against natural gas, and as Biden has/will learn high gas and electricity rates mean higher food costs which means you have a 33% approval rating. I also think a residential battery system is key to avoid building generation to meet peak demand, 7-9 am and 5-7 pm. Experts claim a smart grid for houses will be able to use the battery in EV’s to store electricity during non-peak times and put back that electricity during peak times. Like roads and transit, we build electricity generation to meet peak demand, which often demands fossil fuels for the peak demand.

        Certainly, every new house should have a solar panel on their roof. I simply don’t understand why areas that use a lot of air conditioning don’t mandate this simple remedy.

        And then preserving trees and green spaces, including yards in suburbia, and trees in urban areas which are disappearing.

        If you want to reduce carbon from farming don’t eat meat (which is good from just a health standpoint) and don’t eat rice, and eat local.

        In the long term all of these solutions are going to have to be solutions that are affordable and useable for second and third world countries where all the future greenhouse gases will come from. Otherwise, the U.S. is wasting its time. This is the issue that concerns me about nuclear.

        Residential housing is probably at the bottom of the list. A single person living in a condo in downtown Seattle creates as much carbon per person as does a family of four living in a SFH in suburbia (plus the house has a large yard that captures carbon). I suppose we will move to electric heat pumps (and AC) instead of natural gas furnaces, and thermostats are much better today, but if the units are insulated you don’t save any carbon by where you live.

        If people want to live in urban areas they will live in urban areas, depending on the urban area. There are lots of urban areas in the U.S. in which no one wants to live in. Around 3% of the 2.4 billion acres in the U.S. are “metropolitan” so where you live just is not a big differentiator for carbon emissions, if you don’t have to commute to an urban core, which I hope is a thing of the past because it is such a waste of time, fuel, and carbon (pre-EV).

        Inslee cares about global warming but has done little to lower emissions during his nine years because citizens want solutions that don’t ask them to sacrifice, and he is afraid of hurting the economy. Luckily this region gets massively subsidized hydro power. Taking a bus, living in a shoebox without a yard, turning the thermostat to 68, going vegetarian (which I advise), maybe not demanding one day service on Amazon, are hard sells. EV’s, WFH, battery storage through a smart grid, electric heat pump, a subsidized solar panel on your roof, artificial meat that tastes like meat (not quite there yet), small nuclear plants, ask no sacrifice, although computers and the massive storage farms do use a lot of electricity.

        But like I said, if an illiterate person in India cannot figure out how to use any of these remedies it doesn’t matter. They were worried about starving and staying warm, which is more immediate than global warming.

      2. The market will sort it out Brendan.

        Oh, so you are a big fan of upzoning. I didn’t know that.

      3. Ross, that comment is like asking if I am against all government regulation. You yourself support zoning, if that zoning. — use and regulatory — fits your vision.

        I don’t think upzoning remote residential neighborhoods will create affordable housing, and it is not affordable or feasible to serve these areas with transit, so I don’t get the point of these mild upzones. I also don’t see your point of eliminating all zoning, if that is what you mean by the “market”.

        If anything a true market system — which may become much more popular – – is HOA’s, which supersede zoning to the extent they are not discriminatory and don’t exceed local zoning regulations.

        But yes, when it comes to housing, transportation, and transit the market will usually in the end determine the outcome because people act in their best interest, and it is very hard to convince them otherwise.

        If dollar per rider per mile was irrelevant then I guess we could build whatever our ideology wanted. But ST proves those are relevant, if you want the trains to keep running.

        We disagree on zoning but I always followed your advice about using current ridership to determine frequency to determine mode because in the end that is the market.

      4. It’s a tricky question. I think we obviously need to clean up the electricity grid. And we obviously need the cars and trucks on the road to become electrified.

        I’m personally skeptical that a direct subsidy for EV’s is going to help much; if the subsidy causes the price of EV’s to go up and the price of used gas cars, being traded in for subsidized EV’s to go down, much of the benefit gets undermined. If an EV subsidy should exist at all, it should be targeted at the low-income.

        However, there are some things I think should be done. I think the Uber and Lyft fleet needs to be zero-emission, and for reasons of inertia, I don’t think many drivers are likely to make switch until the city or state requires it. Same for most door-to-door delivery vehicles (Amazon, DoorDash, etc.). I also think newly constructed residential parking garages should have mandatory EV charging, and that slow charging for every everyone at once is more useful than fast charging that only one or two cars can use at a time. There should also probably be subsidies for landlords and HOA’s to retrofit existing residential parking garages with EV charging plugs. Obviously, this can’t all happen at once, and would have to be phased in over several years. But, it should happen.

        I think new buildings should be entirely gas free, unless gas appliance provide real benefits to the homeowner in terms of quality or financial savings (which I don’t think they do in this day and age). But, I don’t think paying to replace gas equipment in existing buildings would be cost-effective. Upzoning is a no-brainer.

        While I do think transit funding is important in its own right, I don’t really see more transit funding as a climate solution, especially if the transit itself is still running off diesel fuel (I have ridden many buses that probably emit more carbon than every passenger on board driving a separate car, but the bus still needs to exist, for reasons unrelated to climate). High-speed rail as a climate solution is even more far-fetched, as people just don’t travel between cities nearly as often as they travel within them.

      5. I don’t think upzoning remote residential neighborhoods will create affordable housing

        Nor does anyone else. Nice straw man though.

        When people talk about upzoning, they are usually talking about doing so in urban areas, or inner suburbs.

        If people want to live in urban areas they will live in urban areas

        Unless, of course, they can’t, because there aren’t enough places to live in those urban areas. The situation is made worse by redlining highly restrictive zoning. Prices are pushed up, preventing people from living where they want to live. The market is manipulated by what is effectively a cartel. By upzoning (e. g. allowing low rise development everywhere in Seattle) you create more of a free market. Of course this would make housing more affordable.

        It is almost like you are saying “let the market decide” while also restricting the market to benefit those who are already wealthy (using zoning). We all know how that works out (http://seattle.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9611821&GUID=81FE334E-2E8E-4EDE-8CD1-4EB80458233E).

    4. Once 509/167 is completed, most freight will likely take the 167-405-90 route, as it will be equivalent or faster, with far better, more consistent travel and travel times. So 1 or the other, if freight is your concern. Not both.

      1. Huh? I’ve driven 18 a bit and I often see semis on it. Surely the completion of the two added lanes for the last few miles on 18 will divert more semis from 90.

        405 is often congested. It seems worse than I5 at times. I’ve seen it delayed for hours on a typical afternoon. It’s so historically bad that there is a travel time via 405 vs 90 to Bellevue sign traveling on I5 northbound south of SouthCenter.

      2. Most freight will still use the rail lines east to Chicago. Truck freight is a minority of the freight moved out of this region. The Port of Seattle moves too many products from China to the rest of the country. The relatively slow speed of a semi truck when compared to a non-stop train is undesirable for such traffic.

      3. The main selling point of 509/167 is freight mobility, though we all know that it will be quickly clogged with single occupancy vehicles.

        Yes, If we are building a massive new freeway for freight, is it really necessary to also expand a parallel route for that same freight? Right now 18 provides maybe a 15 minute advantage over the pass. With a new highway, it will likely be just about equivalent.

        My point is we shouldn’t be building new highways, or expanding current highways at all. We certainly should be doing it redundently.

        I have sympathy for the trucking industry, but unless we step and and actually create freight-only lanes on one of those routes, they will just be quickly saturated with cars. We have all seen it over and over and over again, but we keep making the same mistakes.

      4. Both the 167 and 509 completion projects are going to be tolled so I’m skeptical they’re going to be saturated with cars.

      5. I’d forgotten that. Hopefully you are right, but my guess is that, unless they are giving freight some sort of break, that will actually increase truck traffic on 18. A lot of that truck traffic is really just heading for Kent and Auburn warehouses, but the ones heading for the pass will likely avoid it.

        It may just get saturated with Teslas and beemers, for which a couple bucks has no meaning.

        Maybe toll as a fraction of income. Then it would be useful. Somebody making minimum wage pays a quarter. An Amazon engineer pays $25.

      6. Do you mean “most freight to and from the Port of Tacoma“? Because I surely cannot see how SR167 would be used by shipments to and from the Port of Seattle.

        Is the Port of Tacoma and its relatively few I/M cranes really that much busier than the Port of Seattle the its contribution to the volume of freight moving east over Snoqualmie Pass is “the majority of freight”?

      7. Yes, Port of Tacoma.

        The Ports of Tacoma and Seattle created an alliance years ago and are now considered 1 port for all intents and purposes. IIRC their volume is split pretty close to 50/50, though some years Seattle does more business and some years Tacoma does more business.

        I’m not sure I understand your question regarding the majority of freight. A joy seems to think the majority is rail, but I have no idea.

        All I know is that all the justifications for 167/509 revolve around connections to the Port of Tacoma.

      8. But I’m referring the segment of 509 that is being built to more easily funnel out of the Port of Tacoma, not the extension near Burien and Seatac. Different animal, and perhaps part of the confusion?

      9. “Most freight will still use the rail lines east to Chicago. Truck freight is a minority of the freight moved out of this region.”

        Freight is more than just the trunk from the China container ships. It’s taking products from within the US to every town and distribution center in Washington and Oregon. Food from California comes by truck.

      10. Everything around Port of Tacoma is 167 and everything around SeaTac is 509, so that might be part of the confusion? They are branded & funded together but are otherwise independent projects. 509 will help with traffic moving between the Ports and the industrial areas (SoDo, Kent, etc.), but for moving traffic east/west between Tacoma and Snoqualmie, that’s all 167 (and 405 or 18).

        The SR18 project would be much better if it was tolled, like the Gateway projects.

        A joy, do you have a source for your rail freight mode share? Rail may have a large share for product moving out of state, but the Gateway project is about moving freight within the region. I’m unaware of UP or BNSF having a large intermodal facility anywhere aside from the Ports themselves, so I’m imagine for moving product from the ports to a facility in western or central Washington, rail is nearly irrelevant. I’m familiar with inland intermodal facilities for some of the east coast ports (example: https://scspa.com/locations/inland-port-greer/ ), which pull the truck traffic away from the waterfront and usually to support a logistics node inland, but does Washington have anything like that?

      11. @Mike Orr:

        “Freight is more than just the trunk from the China container ships. It’s taking products from within the US to every town and distribution center in Washington and Oregon. Food from California comes by truck.”

        Certainly. I would not argue otherwise. But it is not the majority of freight in this region. Most trucks around here are “first/last (100-1,000) mile(s), if you will. As a major port, the closest to China in the US, our freight is mainly the kind that travels tens of thousands of miles. Are semis important? Yes. Are they the end all and be all? Not even close.

        @AJ, I have family who does reporting on the Port for the NY Journal of Commerce. It is their job to follow and know such things.

      12. I was hoping for a citation, but a bit of Googling does the job too: leg.wa.gov/JTC/Meetings/Documents/Agendas/2012%20Agendas/JTC_102412/TruckFolio_PortofSeattle.pdf … 70% of containers travel by rail.

        And yet your point remains completely irrelevant, at best. It would be like arguing there’s no need to invest in sidewalks since most trips are by cars, or there’s no need to invest in I90 since most freight travels on I5. Intermodal freight that moves containers by rail from Port to Midwest has a near negligible impact on the regional economy, supporting a small number of Port longshoreman and BSNF jobs. Freight that moves by truck around the region, whether it passes through the port or not, is essential to our regional economy and supports a diverse set of industries and tens of thousands of jobs.

        I happy to learn that most Midwest bound freight moves by rail (cheaper, better for the environment, and better for the pass-through communities), but I don’t see what that has to do with investing in better freight connections between Western and Central/Eastern Washington markets & businesses. Given the absence of intermodal facilities east of the Cascades within Washington state, cargo moving by rail is rather irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

      13. cargo moving by rail is rather irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

        Not really. The port has a lot of well paying jobs. Thus it is quite reasonable for the government to do thing that benefit the port. That was a big justification for the 167/509 projects. If, as A Joy said, this is only a tiny part of what the port handles, that weakens that argument.

        Let’s fact it, the 167/509 project was bullshit. It is nothing but a sprawl inducing freeway project that ultimately will just shift traffic from one part of South Sound to another. Proponents used the “It is vital to the port” excuse to push it, when as it turns out, the port doesn’t really care. Those goods are going to be pushed out to local communities no matter what happens, while the bulk of the goods will travel by rail.

      14. https://fmsib.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2020-10/2017_FMSIB_Annual_Report.pdf

        “In 1997, the Washington State Legislature’s Freight Mobility Advisory Committee recommended the state adopt a freight mobility policy and a dedicated funding source for freight projects. The Legislature responded by adopting Chapter 47.06A RCW, establishing the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board (FMSIB). The decision by the Legislature to take action and to address freight strategically and statewide has been proven to be wise as the economic importance of the freight system throughout the state has grown. Since 1997, state Gross Domestic
        Product (GDP) has grown from $260 to $477 billion. At the end of 2016, our state’s GDP had the highest percent increase of any state in the United States. In real dollars, our state’s GDP has grown by almost 16 percent in the last five years alone”.

        As noted in the link 64.3% of total freight in WA moves by truck. 30% of freight from the Port moves by rail, but a higher percentage to the port.
        Looking only at imports from out of country is only a part of the equation. Ports compete with one another. Rail and trucks are complementary, and if one is slow it affects the entire operation, and makes the port less competitive as most ships are on charter.

        We saw with the recent closure of Snoqualmie Pass for several days the impact to Western Washington, and the trucker protests in Canada are affecting freight throughout N. America and will increase supply chains, and increase inflation. The bridge between Canada and Michigan the truckers are now blocking moves 50% of the freight the entire Long Beach port handles.

        “Proponents used the “It is vital to the port” excuse to push it, when as it turns out, the port doesn’t really care. Those goods are going to be pushed out to local communities no matter what happens, while the bulk of the goods will travel by rail.”

        I can’t really say whether these transportation improvements are necessary or good value, or why their representative would push these projects when they have no value. but do trust the knowledge of the folks at the port, stevedoring companies I work with, and the FMSIB. They care very much about moving freight, and one of the huge problems up and down the west coast right now is the shortage of truck drivers.

        To state that “[T]hose goods are going to be pushed out to local communities no matter what happens, while the bulk of the goods will travel by rail” is like stating increase all frequencies on transit to one hour because those riders will get to their destination “no matter what happens”. Or eliminate a mode that handles at least 30% of riders. What happens is they find a different mode of transportation, or another port.

      15. @AJ

        “It would be like arguing there’s no need to invest in sidewalks since most trips are by cars, or there’s no need to invest in I90 since most freight travels on I5.”

        Nice Strawman there. I argue no such thing. My entire point is about bringing perspective to the argument. I agree that semi truck frieght is an important part of local commerce. But it is nowhere near the majority, and that should seriously be taken into account. Every Freight Mobility Plan should be Port and rail centered, for example. But if you look at them year after year, they are almost solely about roads.

        “Intermodal freight that moves containers by rail from Port to Midwest has a near negligible impact on the regional economy, supporting a small number of Port longshoreman and BSNF jobs. Freight that moves by truck around the region, whether it passes through the port or not, is essential to our regional economy and supports a diverse set of industries and tens of thousands of jobs.”

        This is just silly. Neither the numbers nor the logic back this up. 30 percent is not more important than 70 percent. Especially when that 70 percent has a higher profit to carbon footprint ratio. Yes, trucks have more employees, putting more money into the economy. But at a cost, in concrete, in pollution, in congestion, and in illegal parking. Walk down first through fourth midday and take a look at all the illegally parked delivery semis. Or just try to take a bike lane anywhere in the city. Realize the same thing happens in every city of size in the state, from Spokane to Kent, Bellingham to Vancouver.

        Truck freight is a necessary evil. it is not desirable in any way, shape or form. It is not going away either, but let’s not kid ourselves and think it is something that should be supported or lauded.

    5. Nit:
      The “$30 trillion” national debt started increasing substantially after the 2017 tax cuts bill, and got worse as various phases of that legislation kicked in over time. The pandemic spending only played part of the role.

      1. Yes, but the Holy Republicans passed the 2017 tax cuts, from which 95% of the benefits go to the “right” people Thus, they are “investments in America!”, not “tax expenditures”.

      2. I was responding to this bit

        The only significant difference is the one-time funding from federal Covid monies (which has increased our federal debt to over $30 trillion) and the carbon commitment

        which makes it sound as though the primary reason we’ve had a massive run up in debt was the pandemic.

      3. Yes, I know. I was just pointing out that R’s don’t “count” that part of the “National Debt”. The only dollar that is a “debt dollar” is one which is the result of Democratic legislation or a Democratic administration.

      4. “Yes, I know. I was just pointing out that R’s don’t “count” that part of the “National Debt”. The only dollar that is a “debt dollar” is one which is the result of Democratic legislation or a Democratic administration.”


    6. The damage to the Vancouver waterfront and urban center will be pretty great, given the footprint of the interchanges proposed in the current design. My objection to the new bridge design is less about the number of lanes on the bridge itself and more about the footprint of the bridge approach on land making Vancouver worse, particularly the monstrosity that is the I5-SR14 interchange.

      A critical interstate freight corridor shouldn’t be consuming scarce urban space, particularly when there’s isn’t a major industrial use (like there is with Tacoma & Seattle ports); the new bridge should have a smaller footprint, particularly on land, and if there’s a need to create more throughput capacity it should go elsewhere, either to 205 or a new crossing elsewhere.

      I would love to see a proposal that takes the ‘through’ traffic on an underwater bridge, like the Frasier crossing, and then a small above water bridge to provide access to Vancouver downtown (and Hayden island) just a basic signalized interchange w/ 14.

      1. AJ, Tlsgwm, the actual channel of the Columbia River was a canyon about 200 feet deep immediately after the Missoula Floods. About 150 feet of that has refilled with unconsolidated stony silt deposited by the river in the intervening 14 millenia. The river is about fifty feet deep at normal flow; it gets up to about seventy during some spring floods.

        So the tunnel would have to be at least sixty feet deep at the top, to protect it from accidentally dropped items and then another twenty-five feet or so for the vault, ceiling and vehicle passageway. It’s not clear that the silt could support the weight of the vault, but the footings for the existing northbound bridge have been there for 102 years, so it probably would. So you’re looking at a roadway about 85 feet below mean water.

        That’s not a problem on the Portland side because the ground is just river alluvium. But on the Vancouver side the roadway does rise about twenty feet at Mill Plain. You would definitely want to preserve the interchange there or downtown Vancouver would be out in the cold.

        That twenty feet is a good thing for a bridge because it has to achieve at least eighty feet of clearance right at the bank since barges and towboats will have to pass through the existing bridge during construction. Taller vessels will simply not be able to pass during construction, even if there will be a hundred foot clearance in the middle of the bridge over the new channel. The net result is that the bridge only has to gain sixty feet from the launch point to the shoreline. That’s doable with a reasonable gradient.

        But for a tunnel the physical elevation at Mill Plain adds to the total elevation change rather than subtracts from it, and the same geometry pertains to a tunnel as that to a bridge. The top of the tube has to be at very nearly full depth right at the shoreline because that’s where the existing channel is. Again, it might be acceptable to embargo especially deep-draft vessels during construction allowing the tunnel to encroach closer to the riverbed.

        I think that’s why the planners have ruled a tunnel out.

        If it were geometrically feasible, this would be a great place for a trench-and-drop tunnel (like the Transbay Tube), because the setup costs for TBM’s for such a short tunnel — about a mile — would be pretty steep. And, Vancouver has good large marine construction facilities available right by the bridge.

      2. “roadway does rise about twenty feet at Mill Plain. You would definitely want to preserve the interchange there or downtown Vancouver would be out in the cold.” My vision would be for the main freeway to begin going underground north of Mill Plain Blvd, bypassing both Mill Plain and SR14. Downtown would be improved without that interchange. Downtowns are not the place for interchanges; if a driver needed to access Vancouver, it would still have the Plain Blvd interchange. This could be Vancouver’s version of urban freeway removal, with I5 still providing access to, but not access *within*, the urban center.

        If there needs to be local access to downtown Vancouver from the south, in addition to the underwater freeway (perhaps Transbay tube is a better comp than the George Massey replacement?) there could be a regular albeit much smaller above water bridge. This would dramatically improve the urban fabric of downtown Vancouver and open up valuable waterfront. For example, if you are on SR14 and want to access I5 southbound, you would make a left turn onto the ‘local’ bridge, cross over the river, and then merge onto I5 on Hayden island or perhaps further south.

        There could be a boulevard for local traffic and have a (signalized?) intersections, not interchange, at both Mill Plain and SR14, or simply repurpose freeway ROW between Mill Plain and the river. The local bridge need not even be in the same footprint the current bridge, if it made more sense to shift it over slightly (the airport would like it further west?), but the current location would likely works best for transit and pedestrian/bike purposes.

    7. “This plan is heavily based on the PSRC’s 2050 Vision Statement”

      It’s not based on the PSRC’s future population projections. It’s based on the current population level, past sprawl over the last thirty years, and freight mobility. The argument is that the highways are needed now and have been needed for ten years, they’re not just for a future population increase. The proponents have tried to get these highway extensions passed in previous transportation bills repeatedly.

      “If inflation continues at its current rate”

      That’s highly unlikely. Inflation is being propped up now by supply-chain bottlenecks, a shift to goods, and low-wage workers getting a much-needed minimum wage increase, parents unable to work because schools are closed or they’re afraid their child will get infected due to inadequate school-safety and community-safety policies, and people moving out of low-wage high-stress careers. If prices remain at this level then inflation will be zero, because inflation is the rate of change. If you say inflation will remain at 4-8% for more than ten years, you’re saying that pandemic spikes will never end, Chinese factories will continue to close a few times a year, we’ll never straighten out the supply-chain shortages, etc.

      And gas prices are still lower than Canada or Europe. The problem in the US is people have built a lifestyle dependent on cheap gas, and the lack of a robust social safety net means poor people have to drive to multiple oddly-located jobs, and the transit network is not robust enough to provide an alternative in many cases. Other countries have solved these problems.

      “inflation is now Biden’s top concern”

      It’s one of his concerns. I hope that preserving democracy is his top concern.

      “The Democrats’ 16-year transportation plan is really a 16-year progressive dream wish list”

      Oh, come on. RapidRide lines in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Vancouver, and Bellingham are sensible next steps, not radical socialism. Note that there’s only one Link project, an elevated section in Fife, which is inexpensive because it’s elevated on public highway ROW. The legislature steered clear of controversial Seattle tunnels or the Paine Field detour, if it even knows about them because it can’t follow all of Pugetopolis’ minutae.

      “What I mind is Inslee’s pimping of global warming for all his proposals that really simply benefit his special interests.”

      At least he’s doing something for transit now. That’s been my beef with Inslee for years, that he talks about making major strides in climate but stops at electric cars without ever getting to transit. A robust transit network would lessen the need for so many cars.

      “Metro’s eastside transit restructure plan for when East Link opens basically rejects the assumptions in the 2050 Vision Statement and in this transportation bill.”

      That’s just your false interpretation. Metro’s plan is what it said it would do all along, and what it has been orienting the network toward for fifteen years. Link is to be the express trunk, feeders will go to it, and intra-Eastside routes will make it easier for Eastsiders to remain in their own district and not cross the bridge. South King County has had similar restructures around the 120, 150, 160, and 578 over the past decade, and more routes from Kent and Southcenter to surrounding cities. The Eastside will have Link going through its middle. South King County won’t, so its trunk-and-feeder and crosstown network will look different, but the underlying principles are the same.

    8. One inflation-related thing I’m worried about is the anti-vax trucker strikes. They seem poised to spread from Ottawa and the border to the US and Europe. If they add more supply-chain bottlenecks, that could exacerbate inflation.

    9. You dished out a lot here so just a few quick things to point out that caught my immediate attention. 1). SS is now calibrated with inflation in mind so not much impact to seniors. 2) Debt has risen over last several years but at least receipts were at a record high this last year and given recent fed policies they will set new records until GOP assumes control again. 3) Currently residing in Italy where EVs are scorned more so than other EU countries and public transit is supreme, PT has weathered covid and become stronger than ever. As long as a practical system is implemented pt will thrive. Towns here of under 10,000 hsve both train and bus access to larger cities hours away with ridership always bordering 80%. 4) In some ways I think the inflationary gas prices are a blessing in desguise. Electric vans are hitting the market in droves and corporate america is latching on relentlessly. EV pickups are also picking up steam which is exhausting the rural arguement against high gas prices. This year will be a tremendous transitional year to ev tech.

      1. excuse typos (disguise)s and misspells…i know some folk get bent out of sorts for such.

        I also should have elaborated more on induced ridership. If Italian towns of under 10,000 are INDUCED to ride public transit where Uber isn’t even available for the last mile, then certainly it will work most places in the Puget Sound.

      2. les, rising inflation hurts seniors on SS several ways:

        1. The formula used to calculate COLA is different than the CPI. Usually in stable interest rate and inflation times the COLA is slightly generous and above CPI. But during rising inflation that is not correct because the COLA is a lagging indicator, and the CPI was manipulated years ago to exclude energy and food prices, which when combined with the “official” inflation rate of 7.5% that has been present for over a year the real inflation rate is well over 10% whereas the COLA was 5.9%, and seniors eat, heat their homes, and drive too, and are particularly susceptible to inflation for medical services which are not as discretionary.

        2. Most seniors keep their non-SS assets in fixed income, or less risk-based investments, rather than equities (except maybe a basket of high dividend stocks like AT&T that have lost share value during this incredibly increase in stocks but pay a dividend that is taxed as ordinary income). Recent years have been brutal on seniors because the Fed has kept inflation rates artificially low while the fed has stimulated the economy through bond purchases and the fed. government has dispensed trillions in cash in Covid stimulus well after the stimulus was needed which has ignited inflation. This has led to a sharp increase in the value of risk-based assets while fixed income has lost ground based on inflation rates, which means it has actually lost ground, while SS has lagged well behind inflation.

        The good news for seniors is seniors do much better during a recession following high inflation because they received the permanent SS COLA while prices begin to fall on risk-based assets during a recession. With the fed raising interest rates in 2022 (at least 1% but probably higher), stopping entirely its $120 billion/month bond buying stimulus in March, and fiscal stimulus like BBB over, we will likely see a recession in the latter half of 2022 while inflation is still high. Not great for the 2022 elections which is why D’s were so keen on keeping the cash payments under the child tax credit.

        My guess is a recession will wring out the investors in housing who have been a big cause of the sharp increase in housing costs, and many people who bought too high will walk. Good for home buyers if you have cash (although rising interest rates will lower what can be bought) but not so great for renters because all those homeowners will now need to rent. The irony is many very smart money managers think the category to invest in now is commodities although they are quite high, but will stay high which means inflation will remain for some time even after a recession begins. For the average Joe move more investments into cash.

        Oh, and the bridge the truckers are blocking between Michigan and the U.S. carries 50% of the entire cargo that comes in from the Long Beach port.

      3. And in Granada, Spain, where my roommate’s brother just moved from and he says there’s surface light rail to the single-family “villages” around it (with 2-3 story buildings in the centers). I asked if transit to the villages was hourly or half-hourly and he said, “More often than that.” Take that, East Link restructure to Sammamish, and threatening to downgrade the B to half-hourly evenings, and many other half-hourly routes in the suburbs and even Seattle.

        Germany also has light rail in cities like Bielefeld (321,000 in the 1990s when it was built) and from Duesseldorf to Ratingen (86,000 population) and other cities. Many are at least on an S-Bahn network if nothing else. Switzerland’s national trains are half-hourly to cities both large and small. We need to hear more about what’s happening in Europe. Thanks for reporting on Italian towns, and anything else more you may know.

      4. In 2012 The Atlantic — hardly a conservative bastion — noted Western Europe as a whole had more cars per person than the U.S. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/08/its-official-western-europeans-have-more-cars-per-person-than-americans/261108/

        Wiki puts the U.S. towards the top of cars per person per country, although the main factor seems to be per capita wealth (or total population for India and China). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_vehicles_per_capita

        This link is interesting because it shows cars per capita growth through 2014. Other countries are catching up to the U.S., especially as wealth grows. https://www.energy.gov/eere/vehicles/fact-962-january-30-2017-vehicles-capita-other-regionscountries-compared-united-states

        https://www.statista.com/statistics/314912/average-number-of-cars-per-household-in-england/ This link shows cars per household for areas in Great Britain which suggests the more rural areas there are the higher cars per capita percentage there will be, which makes sense. What would be interesting is a comparison by country of miles driven per year per car owner, which probably is influenced by the size and density of the country. Here is a comparison among U.S. states. https://www.idrivesafely.com/defensive-driving/trending/average-miles-driven-per-year-us#:~:text=Wyoming%20topped%20the%20list%20of%20most%20miles%20driven,Mexico%20is%20not%20far%20behind%20with%2018%2C369%20miles.

        This comprehensive comparison also factors in the price of gasoline and owning a car. https://internationalcomparisons.org/environmental/transportation/ Even though the U.S. has a much lower average price per gallon (or use to) the amount of income per person spent on gas in much higher, which means the vehicles are less efficient or the distances greater, probably the latter based on a comparison of kilometers driven. The U.S.’s bike use is around average, although transit use is much lower.

      5. “In 2012 The Atlantic — hardly a conservative bastion — noted Western Europe as a whole had more cars per person than the U.S”

        I don’t know about that, but Europe certainly has a lot more transit per person and higher ridership and mode share, and the society is more resilient for it.
        “Other countries are catching up to the U.S., especially as wealth grows.”

        Yes, car numbers are increasing as wealth grows. But the non-car network is still there. Many people use the non-car network, and it’s always available for others to use it if they need to or want to.. It’s hard to find a Londoner who doesn’t take the Underground or bus or train at least some of the time.

        Rural transit in the UK isn’t that great, especially after privatizations and semi-abandoning some areas. But it’s still better than in the US.

        And the intercity trunks help you get close to small towns even if not all the way. Trains are faster than buses between Edinburgh and London and Cambridge and London, to mention two I experienced. And when I went to Blackpool for a show, there was high-speed rail to Manchester and an hourly train to Blackpool an hour a way. On the latter I met several people from Sweden and Denmark who were coming to the show. They had apparently taken trains and ferries from Denmark. If Britain were like the US they would have probably flown to Manchester and gotten a rental car to Blackpool. And when we got to Blackpool you could walk to the venue and hotels and the seaside and anything else you might need.

      6. From the Atlantic article: “That number [of cars per person] is higher [than the US] in nearly all of Western Europe — the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, etc. — as well as in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand”

        That sounds impossible. And a lot of Europeans and Japanese who do own cars use them only on weekends or for less-common trips, not for everything like most Americans do. So even if they have a car they’re not driving as much.

        The chart is also suspect. The European countries it names on the left side of the line are Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Malta, Italy, Iceland, and Luxembourg. That completely misses what most people mean by “Europe” and low car use: Germany, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Spain. Some dots are unnamed so we don’t know what they are. But all the named ones are either small, in Eastern Europe, or are otherwise unusual. Iceland is a small rural island. Luxembourg has fabulous banking wealth. Eastern Europe Americans don’t know as much about and can’t compare as well, and it’s been skewed by Communism’s legacy and the lowest incomes in Europe.

        When I was in Bristol my friend drove a large truck for a living, and other times he usually drove a car. But when we went to pubs in the evening in the city center, he took a bus so he wouldn’t have to drive home afterward. Americans would probably drive because a pub is not a work commute, and in many places there is no transit to the pub, or if there is it ends before midnight.

      7. Greater distances is also an issue. Metropolitan areas in the US are larger because of low density, so more people live further out than the same-sized city in Europe, and thus have to drive fifteen, thirty, even fifty miles. Rural people drive all over the state, so it’s common to drive an hour or three or four hours, because one thing is in one town, another thing is in another city, etc. Rural driving in the UK may be similar to the US.

        It’s not really the size of the country that makes a difference. Most car trips in the US are within a metropolitan area, to nearby cities, or within a rural region. So it doesn’t matter that there’s hundreds of miles of desert or farmland in the Rockies or Dakotas or between Eugene and Sacramento because not many people drive through it, and those that do might do it only a few times in their life. Especially since gas prices aren’t what they were in the 1960s.

      8. I like that Glen. Good get.

        Mike, there are at least a dozen trains a day through Aviano, a town the size of a Leavonworth or Chelan. The speed on these rural routes are upto 100mph but slow to 50 the closer to Venice you get. Important notes about Italy:. Domestic airline went out of business this year because of rail success.
        Italy is first EU country to move freight to some of the passenger lines. Freight being at mercy of passenger rail–Amtrak must be drooling. Also, Italys cities and even small towns seem much denser than the states. Tourism, of course, is huge here, but that impacts the bigger city lines as opposed to the smaller ones which ive been riding. Also of note, cars have a small footprint here, ie, no behemoth trucks or suvs. Mostly small. crossovers and the like. Roads, even in rural area, are not made for big things. They like fast however.

      9. Oh, and the bridge the truckers are blocking between Michigan and the U.S. carries 50% of the entire cargo that comes in from the Long Beach port.

        That’s preposterous. If 50% of the freight arriving at Long Beach were headed to Ontario much more of it would come through Vancouver and Prince Rupert.

        Now maybe you really meant “50% of the volume of the cargo that comes in from the Long Beach port”, and that’s not an unbelievable assertion. But so what? This will be over in two weeks; either Trudeau will crumple or he’ll send the Canadian version of the SeaBees and push a few trucks into the Detroit River. And then the truckers will crumple.

        Finally, Michigan is in the US. Your Freud is showing.

      10. Glenn, I’m not quite sure where they got that statistics, but there is a glaring error in the second column. The US is at 2.16 percent of annual income and gets the Brown Box, but Canada is at 2.92, a quarter higher.

        And why doesn’t the US get the Brown on Cars Owned per 1000 People? It’s more than 100 higher than the Brown Cup holder Norway?

        Are the authors depending on people not reading the stats? That is embarrassing.

      11. les, freight is “at the mercy of passenger rail” on the Northeastern Corridor. Before Amtrak came to be its owner it was Pennsylvania’s and then Penn-Central’s main line between Potomac Yard in Alexandria and the Port of New York and New Jersey along the west side of the Hudson. When the Reading was folded into Conrail, CR quit running on the NEC north of Perryville, where the line up the Susquehanna to Harrisburg branches.

        In the past twenty-five years or so NS has pieced together a parallel line from Manassas Junction west to Riverton and then north to Harrisburg via Hagerstown. It’s considerably longer than going through Washington and Baltimore, but it avoids trackage fees and congestion to Perryville.

        They also have a shortcut via trackage rights on the old C&O between Lynchburg and Glasgow that is shorter but probably more expensive because of the rights wheelage.

      12. Tom, my generalization is based on conventional wisdom and recent events ive been following. In particular Amtraks fight to establish service ne of New Orleeans.

      13. les, Amtrak already goes northeast from New Otleans, on NS to Birmingham. It’s the CSX line east to JAX that is in contention. That would re-establish The Sunset service taken out by a hurricane a decade or so ago.

  7. Doesn’t passing this transportation package also enable the carbon pricing system to go into effect (in January 2023)? I seem to recall it was contingent on this.

  8. Dropping the speed limit doesn’t make roads safer. It just results in everybody speeding and creates a speed trap.

    People like to dream of cheap and easy solutions, but sometimes the cheap and easy solution doesn’t exist. The only way to slow down cars is to physical change the road so that faster speeds simply aren’t possible.

    1. Dropping the speed limit absolutely saves lives. This isn’t even debatable. Change a sign. Install a camera. Start mailing tickets. Save lives. Profit.

      A simple solution does absolutely exist. It only lacks political will.

      1. I suppose you could narrow the road, and slow people down. But that’s not this project. This project is widening the road, and adding a huge shoulder to allow people to feel comfortable go even faster.

        Again, this isn’t a safety project. This is a project to allow cars and trucks to go faster.

    2. Arguably, a “speed trap” is still worth it if it generates revenue that can be used to physically change the road.

      1. Hah. Yeah. I mean, if there was a sign saying 70 mph, then a few hundred yards ahead a sign saying 30, but hidden behind a bush.

        But just offering up open road and car car which can max out at 110? That’s a personal failing. And should be costly. Every. Single. Time. Based on income. Or even better, wealth.

        If you lose 1% of your wealth every time you speed, I’m pretty sure we would be down from 40K to 10K deaths a year in no time.

      2. With the changes to policing adopted by the legislature last session that severely restricted the ability to detain a suspect (at least as the police read it, and after several high profile civil and criminal actions against police their fears were probably justified), reduced manpower as police leave the force, increases in other more serious crime, just the danger from any car stop, concerns about equity in stops, and the fear of Covid, traffic speed enforcement has basically come to a halt.

        I drove to and from Spokane not long ago and it was 80 mph the whole way in the slow lane, which is fast for me but the speed in the slow lane. I have seen average speeds creep up throughout the region, except ironically on Mercer Island where enforcement is still pretty robust (and the other factors affecting the decline in traffic enforcement not so acute).

        You can get apps that allow the insurance company to monitor your driving and speeds, and I thought about one for my 21-year-old son (I pay over $6000/year in car insurance because I have a 21-year-old boy and 18-year-old daughter with old cheap cars at college and another $2000/year for an umbrella policy) but it seemed kind of creepy and he is a nice and responsible kid, for a 21-year-old. Plus the premium breaks were wiped out by the unilateral steps by Kreidler to eliminate credit scoring in insurance rates, which raised all my insurance 30%.

  9. (Lurker here.) Sound Transit’s expansion project just got its own video from The B1M, a British YouTube channel analyzing global construction and infrastructure projects. Feel free to comment or criticize: https://youtu.be/ct4bwWsP3iE

    The channel also hosted a Zoom conference yesterday with some people who were working on the ST project. It’s available via B1M’s social media links if you want to see that discussion.

    (Back to lurking.)

    1. Yeah I saw that yesterday. It appeared to be a veiled product placement for tablet-based design software. It didn’t really explain the ST expansion program very well.

      It’s sometimes not apparent to us, but the ST construction (along with LA) is by far the biggest urban rail expansion in the US. That is great advertising for a company whose products are used in the project!

      1. The Zoom meeting had a lot more specifics, about the Seattle Process, voting challenges re: funding, and even the malfunctioning escalators.

  10. Although transit advocates are usually disappointed with any transportation bill, it is important to remember three things:

    1. D’s/R’s in swing suburban districts hold all the cards: the R’s like their projects because the constituents like roads and bridges, their districts create massive revenue, and both parties need their vote if bonding is required so it really does not matter who is in power.

    3. The ST taxing district will spend around $150 billion on ST through 2044.

    3. This is a $16.8 billion “package” over 16 years. After you deduct $3.5 billion for the court ordered mandate to fix the culverts for salmon, and probably at least $1 billion for bridges in Seattle, adjust the rosy tax revenue projections and factor in inflation, and properly estimate project costs which are probably 1/2 to 2/3 of the true cost in this bill, you have maybe enough revenue for 1/2 the projects. Maybe. That means in the two-year budgets in budget years 2-8 after this budget will require bonding, which requires a supermajority, which mainly benefits the swing suburban districts either way. It is lovely to think WA state will be able to afford it transportation costs without bonding in the future, but that is folly.

    When reality sets in, the question is what projects have the highest priority. Unfortunately, those projects are the most expensive, and logistically and politically the most difficult, which is why they have been talked about for years or decades without getting done.

    Nhttps://wsdot.wa.gov/construction-planning/search-projects/i-5-interstate-bridge-replacement-program. Number one is replacing the bridge across the Columbia River because bridges wear out and there really isn’t an alternative. This crossing is existential to WA (and the recent snowstorm showed how existential I-90 across Snoqualmie Pass is to western WA). The two biggest problems with this project are OR probably does not have its share of the new bridge since OR is a pretty poor state, the bridge is an existential north/south crossing on WA’s southern border but not OR (the recent closing of I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass showed how critical these lifelines are to western WA). OR doesn’t see the great need for a freight/car bridge on its northern border since its existential north/south border is along its border with CA, and OR would prefer some kind of cheaper bridge to get more Vancouver workers to Portland, but the cost for rail per worker is too high. Look for the new bridge to look like the old bridge, just bigger and wider with maybe a bus lane during peak times, if OR can come up with the money.

    Next you have 405, and when you are talking about 167 you are talking about 405. This “drive shed” affects a lot of voters. 405 runs from I-5 in the south to I-5 in the north, is oversubscribed (even during the pandemic), and unfortunately I-5 is the one highway more congested than 405, so taking I-5 to I-90 or 520 is not an option to get to the eastside. The massive growth along 167 has caused congestion on 405, and WSDOT has spent a fortune to remedy this, and will continue to spend a fortune, because these folks like to drive cars and trucks, and the districts have a lot of money and clout. The same geographic and density factors that make transit so difficult in this region make car travel difficult too.

    Those are the two projects come hell or highwater that will get done, but they could exhaust the funding.

    The rest will depend on ridership and number of cars post pandemic, and money. So much of our transportation system is designed to meet peak capacity, when during other hours of the day capacity is adequate. Over the last two years driving — even during peak hours — has been a breeze (except of course I-5 and 405). Less drivers means less capacity means less maintenance means less gas tax revenue (and EV’s will force a need to find a supplemental tax to the gas tax).

    So at this point rather than speculating whether transit ridership or peak commuters will return post pandemic, or delusions about induced demand, my guess is future transportation bills that will require bonding will reprioritize projects where the riders or drivers have returned, because that will also determine gas tax revenue and farebox recovery.

    Nothing would be better than finding out 1/2 of all workers who now WFH never return to commuting because the capacity and maintenance of our transit infrastructure (at least roads) are much lower, although it will have a big impact on gas tax revenue, sales and business tax allocation among cities, and probably transit levies if half the riders are gone. The reality is people pay one way or the other to use the roads and transit (assuming they pay a fare), and adjusting to lower future ridership or driving would be somewhat traumatic, even over 16 years. But my guess is that trauma will be necessary.

    For too long this region has based its transportation funding on population growth and ridership based on “estimates”, and those estimates have not turned out to be accurate and are often manipulated for political purposes and ideology.

    So my advice to the legislature is get ready for the really big projects like bridges and highways that have to get done because they are still congested during a pandemic and carry much of our freight (30% east and much higher south, and much higher TO this region), put some aside for Seattle bridges because Seattle didn’t, at least $1 billion for operations on Link, see how ST turns out, and then prioritize projects in later budgets based on the Ross principle of where the riders/drivers are at that time of budgeting, not where they may be tomorrow or 10 years from now, or where we want them to be.

    I think a fun exercise is to go through the list of projects this bill claims can be funded with the $16.8 billion and select the 1/2 that you think won’t get funded, because the money isn’t there, or the need.

    This transportation bill — as any partisan bill would be — is simply politics. It is the next legislatures that will have to make the tough decisions on what can really be afforded, how much to bond, how to make up for declining gas tax revenue and overly optimistic tax revenue projections, how much to give Seattle for bridges and how much to give ST for operations, knowing the first project out of the gate is the mother of all projects, the new bridge across the Columbia that OR probably cannot afford 1/2 of, and just the sheer uncertainty of our transportation future.

    1. You’re wrong about the Interstate Bridge Replacement project being “value engineered”. The two states agreed on the number of lanes and their functions during the CRC project; that agreement has not been changed. They have produced two “conceptual” but actually “preliminary”, designs. The simpler and less-dominating design is for a pair of side-by-side bridges to be built sequentially, partially within the footprint of the existing southbound span. The other is for a double deck bridge to be built entirely between the existing southbound bridge and the adjacent development. They have unequivocally rejected an opening bridge.

      I agree with your assessment of the importance of the project. This bridge will be built; everyone in Puget Sound depends on California for food. Even the R’s understand that this is existential for the State.

      Washington just appropriated a significant slug of money for the project and made a formal promise of $1 billion from this new bill. Yes, Oregon will struggle to pay its $1 billion match, but it can simply extend tolls. It plans to toll I-205 and I-5 from the two bridges to the I-5 bridge over the Willamette south of Wilsonville eventually. That should raise plenty of revenue to pay off bonds for the bridge, though they have to add some capacity along the way to justify tolling Interstates.

  11. Here is a link to the growth per year of our federal debt. If you scroll down you will see a graph showing the yearly growth in the debt from 2007.

    “Recent US Federal Debt”

    “Chart D.12f: Recent US Federal Debt as Pct GDP

    “Federal Debt increased sharply in response to the Great Recession of 2006-08, with debt rising from $9 trillion in 2007 to $15 trillion in 2011. Federal debt continues to increase about $1 trillion per year.

    “At the end of the COVID-19 year, FY2021, federal debt was $28.43 trillion.”

    It is now over $30 trillion. Even more concerning is a second graph showing the steep increase in debt to GDP ratio for 2020-21. Since 2007 debt to GDP ratio has gone from a little under 60% to 129%, and that is the scary figure because our country and workforce are aging rapidly and cost more and more.

    If you scroll down to a third chart you will see monthly federal spending has skyrocketed in Biden’s first term. Fortunately, artificially low interest rates have ameliorated the interest on the growing debt, but that looks unlikely in the future with current inflation rates.

    According to D congressman Dan Beyer:

    “The Congressional Budget Office now projects that the 2017 tax cuts will increase the national debt by $1.9 trillion over 11 years. The tax cuts are not remotely on track to ‘pay for themselves.”


    I tend to agree with the analysis that the 2017 tax cuts “did not pay for themselves”, and were irresponsible, although many of the low and middle tax cuts were beneficial, including the cap on SALT taxes. Just the recent proposal by progressives in the House to raise the SALT exemption to $80,000 in BBB would have added almost $300 billion to the debt. So no good guys here.

    The increased debt Obama incurred during 2007 to 2011 was probably money well spent, because the alternative could have been a deep depression, and many experts believe not enough money was funneled into the system which prolonged the recession. Both Trump and Biden have taken the lesson to heart during the pandemic.

    Either way the federal debt is now at $30 trillion. Republicans insist on tax cuts and Democrats insist on more spending. At $30 trillion there just isn’t much more room for more debt, especially with entitlements eating up so much budget and inflation rising dramatically. Eisenhower was able to build the interstate system because he didn’t have entitlement costs to deal with, and had very low debt interest payments.

    So my point was the debt amount today is bipartisan. It is the amount, not how it got to $30 trillion, that is the point. Spending has to go down and taxes have to go up, but neither party will budge. So that should mean much less revenue for states and transportation in the future after the recent blow out, especially if the R’s retake the House or Senate in 2022, or Presidency in 2024.

    So let’s make sure we spend the federal money WA has received very carefully, because it will likely be the last for some time. Repeating the project cost estimate errors in the proposed transportation bill simply repeats the mistakes ST made. And let’s hope the two parties get real about balancing budgets, because the debt we are leaving our kids is immoral.

  12. Interesting article in today’s Wall St. Journal, p. A6.

    It turns out the funding in the infrastructure bill has not actually been appropriated. Those appropriations need to be made as part of the annual appropriations process, and R’s and D’s are at a stalemate right now. States across the country are passing transportation bills based on this federal funding, but the funding has not yet been appropriated, and the divisions over the appropriations bills is pretty significant.

    Also, R governors and GOP Senators are pushing back against a Biden memo that “recommends” infrastructure funds not be used on new highway lanes — especially if they serve SOV’s — but instead only on existing road maintenance. Democrats tried to include this language in the actual infrastructure bill but R’s objected and the language was removed. Republican governors are arguing they should be given wide flexibility on where to use the funds, including in blue states. Senate R’s took the unusual step of writing a letter to governors telling them to ignore Biden’s December memo.

    Personally, considering that this is likely the last significant transportation funding for some time, and the dire condition of our existing transportation infrastructure, I wouldn’t mind seeing a requirement that all federal funding go toward maintenance of existing roads and transit. Let the states pay for new roads or transit lines. Usually when states are spending their own money they spend it more wisely.

    1. “I wouldn’t mind seeing a requirement that all federal funding go toward maintenance of existing roads and transit. Let the states pay for new roads or transit lines.”

      The problem is the existing infrastructure is heavily skewed toward cars, and lacks even the minimum transit level in other countries. We can’t be resilient and competitive with that.

  13. What I’m worried about is this: With the money actually going out in $2Bn, 2-year segments, what is to prevent the highways stuff from going to the front of the line, and the transit stuff delayed 10+ years into the future, when a future legislature may well cut it out entirely? I’ve seen this happen all too often with roads+transit packages. Unless there is a provision for the roads and transit components to be proportionally allocated in each 2 year interval, so that neither component jumps to the front of the line.

    1. Republicans tried to suppress/manipulate prior monies such as ARRA (see CAHSR) but were stymied until they had absolute power via the executive branch at which point Chao wrecked all sorts of havoc. STB, Dept of Trans and other dept mostly controlled by Dems will be in play until 2024.

    2. Besides, the GOP has made it clear that Pence could have overturned the election. I think it only prudent that Harris follows precedent.

    3. At least on the nationwide scale, transit riders have very little clout to get anything, even compared to other interest groups that have similar or lower numbers to transit riders. As a quick example, Googling shows that, even across the entire United States, the number of people that ride transit each year exceeds both the number of people who identify as transgender, and the number of women who seek abortions. Yet, the Left is far more interested in protecting transgender rights and abortion rights than it is in funding better transit.

      Part of the problem is that, outside of a few big cities, transit riders tend to be poor and disorganized. And, the geographical distribution of transit riders is horrible electorally, with the bulk of them concentrated in solidly blue districts of solidly blue states. The population densities that correspond to a 50/50 red/blue vote share correspond to essentially zero transit modeshare.

      The result is that, while federal support for transit is certainly better when Democrats are in charge then when Republicans are in charge, it’s still a pittance either way. Worse, what money does get awarded tends to go towards dubious projects, like the CCC, which are designed more for winning federal grant money than actually moving people. Even if the federal government were to zero out its entire transit budget immediately, I doubt the average transit rider in Seattle would even notice. If it results in the city’s portion of the CCC going to something more productive (like putting more buses on the road), it might even be a net positive.

      Bottom line, transit advocates are much more effective, lobbying for support from local governments, like the Seattle mayor or city council, where they actually do have enough clout to get something meaningful pushed through.

      1. Major projects usually don’t proceed unless fed funds are anticipated:

        “Sound Transit has been counting for years on federal funding to make up nearly 40 percent of the project’s multibillion-dollar budget.”
        “Along with the $1.2 billion grant, the FTA also approved more than $650 million in low-interest, deferred-payment federal loans for Sound Transit to complete the Lynnwood line.”

        More recently (8-18-21)
        “The package will total $3.84 billion for six projects. It includes a new TIFIA loan for the Downtown Redmond Link Extension, and refinancing of five previously approved loans under improved terms. “

      2. The CCC, as Glenn has suggested, offers a great opportunity to connect a stub Ballard-Dravus or Ballard line to the MF at Forest Street. Getting the cars into the tunnel is non-trivial, but could happen in a boulevarded Westlake.

        Ross is right that the existing Inekons and the clones of them are pitiful, but four- or five-unit (if they fit in a Seattle downtown block) Citidis wide-body trams are not. They have low floors throughout and typically come with few seats for the sort of urban frequent-stop service “modern streetcars” like the Inekons pioneered. Two-car trains of them could serve the Ballard stub very well.

      3. The CAF cars are the first true low floor cars in the USA, but they are about the same size as the Inekon cars.

        Either way, by the time the tunnel is too crowded for all three lines, the cars will be approaching time for a midlife overhaul.

    4. “What I’m worried about is this: With the money actually going out in $2Bn, 2-year segments, what is to prevent the highways stuff from going to the front of the line, and the transit stuff delayed 10+ years into the future, when a future legislature may well cut it out entirely? I’ve seen this happen all too often with roads+transit packages. Unless there is a provision for the roads and transit components to be proportionally allocated in each 2-year interval, so that neither component jumps to the front of the line.”

      You are correct Brandon. The Legislature allocates funding based on two-year budget cycles. About half the projects in this bill will be affordable without future bonding (or less depending on project cost estimates, inflation and estimates on future tax revenue –ST shows how little $16.8 billion is), so there definitely will be changes to project funding and project priority, but flexibility is required when the transportation future over the next 16 years is unknown. This bill is mostly political eye candy for progressives and suburban swing reps.

      What generally prevents projects from getting changed or priorities changed is the bonding (which ST understood quite well with ST 3 and I-976). The bonds are based on the project, so you can’t just change the project after taking the bond funding. But this Bill makes a point that it is based on no bonding (which of course it won’t be if 1/2 of the projects want to get completed), and my guess is that is why the Republicans and rural areas are so nonchalant about this huge bill that they were excluded from participating in.

      This is a two-year transportation bill, and the projects are so huge very little will even be permitted by the time the next budget cycle comes up let alone funded. TT is correct, start with the existential projects. If the D’s hold the same majorities in the House and Senate in two, four, six years, and the governorship, and bonding is not required, then this Bill’s priorities may stay the same.

      If not it will be payback time, but since bonding will be required bipartisanship will be necessary and all politicians love transportation pork, which once again leaves the swing suburban reps. in the driver seat, so the projects that will absolutely get done either way are the huge suburban highway projects. If the R’s and rural areas have the majority the suburban reps will work with them, and if the progressives have the majorities, they will work with them. Same reason suburbs decide county or ST wide levies.

      1. “If not it will be payback time”

        Not when most of the growth is in cities and suburbs and they trend more Democratic as they grow. The switch to unified Democratic state government was part of a long-term trend. The state doesn’t have an Electoral College to prop up rural power, nor a tradition of voter suppression to prop up Republicans. It may remain borderline for quite a while and there may be short-term reversals in the legislature, but I don’t see a fundamental switch. Republicans might want to think about why they’re so disliked by a majority of the population and become more pragmatic, and show that they can be trusted with government like they were thirty years ago.

      2. I would play it safe and go hog wild on the more progressive projects early on and try and align with fed Infrastructure bill dollars as much as possible. I hope grant riders have their pencils sharpened because first grant proposals are due by May.

      3. Republicans might want to think about why they’re so disliked by a majority of the population and become more pragmatic, and show that they can be trusted with government like they were thirty years ago.

        It’s the “God” stuff. In the Peoples’ Soviet of Washington only 30% of residents attend church weekly. We be heathens here.

        And that doesn’t even consider the quality of the candidates. The Chief of a two-officer police department for governor? Sounds like the understudy to a “reality” TV show host.

      4. lmao…writers. Those damn NATO jets flying over head all night is getting the best of me. Damn Putin, got everybody on edge.

        Tom, I was thinking regional, but you’re right there are exceptions to every generalization. Viva Amtrak.

      5. Which projects are “progressive”? I don’t see anything comparable to defunding the police, renaming Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, single-payer healthcare, or anything like that. Instead I see several RapidRide-like lines, which would be considered sensible centrist projects in other countries and basic 21st-century infrastructure, with a note on how it opens up more capitalist job opportunities and self-sufficiency for people. The highway projects aren’t progressive, they’re anti-progressive, or at best, just replacement maintenance. Is maintenance now a progressive thing?

      6. If it’s not progressive then most likely not at risk from a R takeover. If it involve bikes, pedestrians, PT, patching divided urban neighborhoods, electric charging infrastructure, salmon culverts, HOVs over CRC and the like then it is at risk of the Rs. The typical highway infrastructure fears no D or Rs alike.

  14. I think the recent trucker protests are an interesting study in hypocrisy.

    R’s who opposed the protests/riots during the summer of 2020 support the trucker protests.

    D’s who supported the 2020 protests/riots oppose the small scale and non-violent trucker protests over vaccine mandates that don’t exist in the U.S. and call for a police crackdown.

    Even more interesting is the real reason for the hypocrisy. D’s fear and R’s hope the protests and closure of the bridge (although there is another bridge 45 miles to the west that is understaffed so wait times are up to 5 hours) create more inflation which is shaping up to be the primary issue in the 2022 midterms,

    The truckers have the luxury of having such shit lives that little can be done to them, and in fact it is drivers leaving the industry to take higher paying and more stable jobs that is a large part of the supply chain problem. The only truckers who are left are those who do it because they like the nomadic and independent lifestyle, and naturally oppose vaccine mandates.

    So Canadans and Americans have a choice: keep the shelves stocked and prices low or force truckers to get vaccinated when most of us don’t want that low paying shit job. Meanwhile the slow walk crackdown by Canadian police is increasing the number of protestors on the bridge, and all D’s can do is watch as their hopes for the 2022 midterms get bleaker.

    1. I think there a two notable differences:

      1. Duration. Except for a few streets and small areas in a handful of places, most protests around the US lasted only as long as a parade. That’s not significantly interfering with ongoing commerce.

      2. Location. Even more permanent protests in 2020 were in places that could be easily avoided by through movement. They didn’t allow CHAZ to occur in the middle of the I-5 ship canal bridge or in the DSTT for example.

      Every protest has a different impact on daily life. I think most reasonable people understand that there are times to end a protest and times to support a protest. It’s not a yes/no activity but instead is based on tradeoffs.

    2. LOL – 90% of Canadian truckers are vaccinated and busy doing actual work unless they’re stuck in the backups this loud minority are creating. Much like Occupy Wall Street, this is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

      1. 84% of all Canadians have received at least one dose. In January 24 Trudeau claimed “a majority” of Canadian truckers are vaccinated. Now it is 90% of Canadian truckers are fully vaccinated, a higher percentage than all Canadians, and 40% more than on January 24. Don’t believe everything politicians say.

    3. The ironic thing is they’re causing the problems they’re blaming government on. It’s their refusal to get vaccinated and wear masks that’s prolonging the pandemic’s impact in the US and made the delta and omicron waves so bad. And now if their trucking stunt shuts down car manufacturing and North American trade, they’ll exacerbate inflation and then blame Biden for it. I saw a commentary that it’s not really vaccines they care about; they just want to make government fail and cause chaos, and vaccines are a convenient pretext. Not just the Biden government and Democrats, but all governments. Their demands have apparently spread from vaccines to the entire far-right agenda and QAnon-ish nonsense conspiracies.

      1. There are two versions of the R party anymore. There are the traditionalist (Romney, Cheney and etc) and the anarchist (successors of the Tea Party). Never in a million years would I have thought I would be relying on political stability and hope from a leader who is Mormon or one who is the daughter of Dickie C.

      2. Modern Mormons aren’t as bad as you might think. The missionary expectation puts them in contact with people that most young people never meet.

        They got rid of the plural marriage thing in order for Utah to become a state. They got rid of the racial bigotry more recently, but seem to have done a good job of it. Women still can’t be high ups in the church, but most of the men treat women with respect.

        Romney was a competent governor of Massachusetts, and didn’t go all theological on folks. If the choice were him or a “nutter” or incompetent Democrat, I’d choose him. Of course it’s unlikely that Dems will nominate a nutter, but the VP is likely to get the nod, and she doesn’t seem to have a lot of gravitas.

      3. I’m thinkn Cheney will be our next and first female president. Mr Mince Words will only tongue tie himself out of the next 4 years (unless by some miracle inflation flames out, a recession doesnt unfold and Putin doesnt cause him a cardiac arrest). But even then populism could probably derail him. (look out McCarthy, pay back is a bitch)

        But your right, in this day and age Romney is also looking good.

      4. But im sure looking forward to the resulting shit storm from when Harris declares the democrat the winner and the Supreme court has to pick the R rep.

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