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Michael Medved

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Mercer Mess defines our governance: WSDOT workers should rise up

Mercer Mess. (File photo)

A two year, $74 million construction project that continually destroyed downtown businesses and traffic around Mercer yielded a two-second improvement in travel times. That “improvement” will now be reversed, thanks to WSDOT.

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The Washington State Department of Transportation (aka Washington State Department of Trains) has announced that the lights on Mercer’s “freeway” entrances will now be metered. The Seattle Times reports:

The $250,000 project is meant to even the flow at which cars enter the crowded freeway, so merging becomes easier, and people driving on I-5 slam their brakes less often. Based on experience elsewhere, the Mercer signals are expected to decrease collisions by a third, and improve throughput by 3 to 5 percent, said Morgan Balogh, traffic engineer for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). So if the freeway moves 7,000 cars per direction in the busiest hour, that might increase to 7,350 or so.

Here’s some news for WSDOT: that corridor is already metered. Have you ever tried to drive it? The entire road is one big start-stop cluster of “we hate your cars and we hate your personal mobility” indicators.

A second piece of news: you are wasting (our) money and (your) effort. Sometime next year I-5 will become the only “freeway” into and out of Seattle as the new tunnel has no downtown entrances or exits. You cannot meter what will not flow. KIRO Radio traffic Guru Chris Sullivan even got WSDOT engineers to admit that Mercer is so messed up they aren’t even bothering to try to fix it.

So, why build the meters?

The only question that remains about this project is why is WSDOT even doing this. The un-leaders of WSDOT admit they don’t care about improving congestion for cars. Making the lives of working people hell when they commute by car is a feature, not a bug, of WSDOT management. A cynical answer to that question: to spend budget money so they don’t lose it. That’s partly correct.

WSDOT, like all government organisms, wants to grow and budgets equal power. The real answer is more interesting and goes to why the Mercer Mess defines Seattle governance.

Engineers don’t run WSDOT or SDOT, and leaders don’t lead local government.

Most government workers are not stupid, corrupt or ideological

There are professional engineers at WSDOT and the Seattle Department of (Bike, Trolley, Skateboard) Transportation who absolutely know how to ease traffic. They know expanding lanes works. On I-405, they painted their way out of some congestion. They did the same on I-90 — when the hands of their un-leaders were forced into letting them.

As engineers, they see simple ways to improve traffic flow, relatively cost-free ways like all-ways-walk traffic lights in downtown. These professionals are fighting against political appointees like Roger Millar, an opportunist. Millar adopts the role of car-hater to keep his job as the top policy-making tortoise in state bureaucracy.

So, we see attempts to improve life for people who drive embedded in the purposeful mud-pits of policy created by Millar and his team of un-leaders.

The real experts know what to do and try to do it against a stream of leftism

  • Cops know how to address the derelict RVs: arrest the meth-cookers, sex-traffickers, heroin-sellers, and burglars; use fences to keep people out of dangerous areas, unlike Mike O’Brien’s Up-In-Smoke style of “management.” Tow the RVs and have them destroyed. In the one-in-ten occasions you find a struggling family, help them with one of the many available shelters. But, cops are not allowed to do that because Seattle is not governed, it is agitated.
  • Union Gospel Mission Leaders know how to solve homelessness: stop making it easy and inviting for people to live outside. They know that most of the people living in areas like the many jungles want to live in areas like the jungles. Where there are no rules, one can do what they do in RVs: cook meth, take meth, deal heroin, take heroin, sex-traffic people or yourself. Making Seattle a place that not only invites these behaviors, but actually subsidizes them will get more of that. This makes it harder for the Union Gospel Mission to find the one-in-ten people who will take an available bed and accept the help they need.

This dynamic repeats itself in Seattle schools, at Seattle City Light and all across Western Washington.

Good WSDOT people need to rise-up

This dynamic of the Roger Millars, Pete Rogoffs, Scott Kublys, and Mike O’Briens halts actual progress. This will not change until these honest, hard-working professionals begin to publicly push back against the politicians running their departments.

If they cannot do it publicly, do it privately, through the media. It is not enough to have occasional whistle blowers, though I thank them. We need a stream of actual workers to be brave enough to stand up and demand an end to playing with people’s lives for political gain instead of governing. When enough good people reveal that they know how to do their jobs, but are blocked by power-seeking politicians, I predict voters will side with them. I already do.

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