Traffic Townhall: I-976 will make Seattle Squeeze ‘much worse’

Nov 7, 2019, 12:59 PM | Updated: 2:43 pm

With I-976 poised to pass in Washington state, many are left wondering how $30 car tabs will affect drivers and transit riders both in Seattle, and across the Puget Sound region. KIRO Radio’s Traffic Townhall with Tracy Taylor and Chris Sullivan looked to address those questions, gathering feedback from SDOT, WSDOT, and Sound Transit.

How a legal challenge to I-976 might play out in court

“If (car tab) funding goes away, we are going to see some really serious impacts to transportation here in Seattle,” warned SDOT’s Heather Marx.

I-976 puts a $35 million hole in Seattle’s budget, hitting everything from transit to street maintenance. More specifically, Marx says that the city could be forced to cut over 100,000 service hours for buses, 15,000 bus passes for high school students, and 1,500 passes for low income riders.

Impacts to other transit projects will be significant as well.

“King County Metro anticipates impacts of $150 million or more,” said King County Metro’s Katie Chalmers. “Without that revenue, cuts to bus service and other projects are a real possibility.”

On a larger scale, there’s an expectation that a fully-implemented I-976 will negatively impact the Seattle Squeeze, a period extending through 2024 where city officials expect private and public construction projects to put pressure on traffic and transportation systems.

“During the Seattle Squeeze it’s going to make things much worse,” said Marx.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Department of Transportation is in the process of prioritizing its various projects, after being directed by Gov. Jay Inslee to postpone any project not already underway.

I-976 fallout: Inslee postpones all upcoming WSDOT projects

That being so, what’s going to stay and what’s WSDOT going to have to put off?

“We’re still doing our safety and our preservation projects,” assured WSDOT’s Patty Rubstello. “I think it’s too soon to know — right now the focus is working with the governor and Legislature on what steps they want to take to fill that funding gap.”

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Traffic Townhall: I-976 will make Seattle Squeeze ‘much worse’