There’s something in the water over at the Washington State Department of Transportation where they seem to take pride in arguing against ideas literally no one has put forth. But it’s actually part of a strategy. They do it to diminish reasonable asks from drivers in the state.
In testimony to the House Transportation Committee in Olympia, State Transportation Secretary Roger Millar decided to push back against drivers who wonder why WSDOT doesn’t build more roads to handle some of the traffic nightmares we experience every workday in the region.
In answering that question, Millar claimed we’d need 451 additional lane miles of highway, at an estimated cost of $115 billion, which would require increasing the gas tax to upwards of $2.50. And even if we did that, we’d have problems.
“If I-5 was 18 lanes wide,” Millar said, “once we got you to the off-ramp you’d have to build the city street system to absorb that traffic.”
Sound like a lot? It does. He presented those numbers to scare you off of your reasonable ask; he wants you to think it’s unrealistic. But let’s not fall for his silly ploy.
The baseline they’re considering when coming up with the number is based on a request no one is really making. His data comes from how many miles of road it would take to hit speed limits, at all times, throughout all of Washington state. But no one is asking for that. We all know we’ll always have some level of traffic. What we want is some real relief.
A recent study says it takes about 94 minutes, on average, to drive I-5 between Everett and Seattle when it should take 30 minutes. We know there will be traffic during the drive times. What we want is to get it closer to what it should be. No one expects it to be a 30-minute commute on a Monday morning at 8 a.m. We want WSDOT to mitigate the traffic congestion and it doesn’t require adding a lane to I-182 in Pasco. And no one is seriously asking for 18-lane highways.
They can, in fact, mitigate congestion and they can absolutely make some infrastructure changes, including adding lanes where they make sense. And though WSDOT has routinely claimed you can’t build your way out of congestion, they’re adding two new lanes – that they’ll toll, of course – on I-405 between Bellevue and Renton to … mitigate traffic. Weird how that works. But they’ll present misleading data to you on a problem people aren’t asking to address while ignoring reasonable requests.