WA Policy Center writers: Roads, not light rail, need investments

Jul 15, 2019, 4:21 PM
light rail, Sound Transit Board, car tabs, Sound transit, ST3, Steve O'Ban, light rail...
(Sound Transit)
(Sound Transit)

When a Seattle Times reader asked why Sound Transit light rail projects can’t get finished sooner, the newspaper analyzed the question and concluded that they could be completed quicker, but that more funds would likely be needed to accomplish this.

“I wasn’t surprised that the answer was, ‘Give Sound Transit more money’ — that’s always the answer,” said Mariya Frost, director of the Washington Policy Center’s Coles Center for Transportation.

In response, Frost recently penned a piece for WPC’s transit blog saying that the real question should not be how the light rail projects can be done sooner, but whether or not they can be done on time.

With the Eastside, Federal Way, and Lynnwood extensions late and over budget, she noted “there’s absolutely no reason to trust that they could meet a faster deadline.”

RELATED: Transportation analyst says congestion pricing devastates the poor

Sen. Mark Harmsworth (R-Mill Creek) — who, as a WPC research fellow, also writes for the think tank’s blog — put the cost in perspective when comparing a historic event that will turn 50 this week.

“It only cost us $25.4 billion to get to the moon, and it’s costing us $100 billion to get to Everett,” he said. “This agency is out-of-control, it doesn’t know how to control its costs, and it has no accountability to the public at all.”

According to Frost’s piece, Sound Transit is hoping to increase the funds it receives from the federal fuel tax, a tax that has cost American drivers 18.4 cents per gallon since the early 1990s. Twenty percent of the federal fuel tax, she said, is diverted to transit projects around the country.

Frost suspects that Sound Transit also has its eye on the state gas tax, which costs Washingtonians 49 cents at the pump.

“If Sound Transit wants to go after federal fuel tax money, then it’s a no-brainer that probably on their wish list is some way where they can secure fuel tax dollars at the state level,” she said.

This would not be possible according to the Washington State Constitution, since the 18th amendment requires that taxes on fuel be “used exclusively for highway purposes.”

However, a possible road usage charge being looked at by the state — which would charge drivers for each mile they drive via a transponder in cars — could divert money to transit projects rather than roads, Frost said.

It is the state’s highways rather than light rail that could do more to improve congestion with extra funds, the WPC writers argue.

In a piece that Harmsworth wrote for the Washington Policy Center, he referenced a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research stating that improving roads reduces the cost of products by hundreds of millions of dollars. Virtually everything that we buy, he said, has to be transported via freight, and those transportation costs are then passed on to the consumers.

“We can improve our economic situation and we can actually save money, because we can now move freight more quickly between our cities … with a relatively minimal amount of additional capacity,” Harmsworth said.

Focusing on improving roads will give “huge economic benefits,” as well as will provide jobs, he added.

“This idea that we need to focus on building light rail faster — I think it’s a complete distraction, because it has nothing to do with the 97 percent of people who are looking for some kind of relief and improved mobility,” Frost said.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dori Monson on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dori monsonTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.

Dori Monson Show

Dori Monson

gay couple wedding flowers...
Dori Monson

Dori: Tri-Cities florist settles with gay couple over refusal to sell them wedding flowers

Richland, Washington, flower shop owner Barronelle Stutzman has settled with the ACLU, citing her Southern Baptist faith as reason for the refusal.
5 days ago
Fentanyl overdose, opioids...
Dori Monson

Dori: Homeland Security Special Agent on surge in drug trafficking, fentanyl deaths

Homeland Security Investigations agent Robert Hammer describes the surge in illegal drugs, and related death counts across the nation.
7 days ago
Stacie, pictured here on a ferry with the Seattle skyline behind her....
Dori Monson

Dori: Woman in wheelchair attacked in Seattle by naked, prolific offender

A Gig Harbor woman with a physical disability alleges that she was victimized by a naked attacker in downtown Seattle earlier this year.
7 days ago
Flooding, Whatcom County...
Dori Monson

Dori: Spirit on display during Whatcom County flooding — what you can do to help

A number of community organizations are leading recovery efforts for those displaced by Whatcom County's recent flooding.
7 days ago
Kyle Rittenhouse, Kenosha...
Dori Monson

Dori: Rittenhouse found not guilty, but who is responsible for the chaos in Kenosha?

The cases against Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha started with absolute media lies. And what have we learned from it? Apparently, nothing.
10 days ago
Dori Monson

Dori: As families flee public schools, Seattle schools push mandatory vax

In so many ways, it feels as if our schools are at a crossroads. My question: Will they continue to take our kids down a dead-end?
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
WA Policy Center writers: Roads, not light rail, need investments