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Why Washington lawmakers avoided voting on the block the box bill

A King County Metro bus blocking the box in Seattle at a red light. (MyNorthwest photo)

Washington State Senator Joe Nguyen says there is a good reason that lawmakers in Olympia opted not to vote on a bill that would have fined drivers for blocking the box in Seattle — they do it themselves.

“Often times lawmakers … make decisions based off of anecdotal experiences they’ve had …” Senator Nguyen told the Candy, Mike, and Todd Show. “And I think some folks, when we were talking through the issue, they felt very personal in terms of how this may impact things they experienced in the past.”

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As first reported by Heidi Groover with The Seattle Times, Senator Nguyen told her that the reason the block the box bill didn’t get a green light is because many lawmakers felt it was something they practice on the road. Groover tweeted her text conversation with the senator, who explained as much saying, “They were like, ‘Oh wait, I do that. I don’t want to vote for this bill.'”

Though the senator’s language via text isn’t as polite as the he is on the air with Candy, Mike, and Todd.

“During that whole dialogue, I was sleep deprived and a bit angry,” Nguyen noted.

The bill would have allowed the city of Seattle to use traffic cameras to cite drivers using bus-only lanes, and drivers who block the box at intersections. Blocking the box is when your car gets stuck in the middle of an intersection during a red light. But the Legislature failed to vote on the matter in time before the session came to a close Sunday.

“In certain areas of downtown it is tricky to get around,” Nguyen said. “It makes it difficult, for not just transit, people as well, to get through, unless we can enforce it. Really, what this bill was trying to do was, in an appropriate way, help folks be better about getting through downtown traffic the best way possible.”

But Sen. Nguyen says that there is still hope for the bill. He expects it to come back in another session.

“We have amendments to put on the bill to make it way better because of (opposition) feedback,” he said. “For instance, the first offense is now just a warning. Initially it was just a grace period, now it’s a warning. So if you are a person who does not necessarily drive downtown very often, if you go down there and get stuck … that is now a warning. And tickets are now capped at $60 …”

Senator Nguyen represents Washington 34th District, which covers West Seattle, White Center, and Vashon Island.

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