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New bill opposes expanding roads, takes ‘holistic’ approach to traffic

According to a new bill, Washington state cannot build itself out of congestion and expanding roadways is not the right path to clearing up traffic.

Sponsor Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) argues that the same pattern of expanding roadways is not a solid long-term approach to solving congestion.

“There’s some research that came out in 2011 that basically says ‘if you build it, they will come,'” Shewmake said. “For every 1 percent increase we get in road capacity, we see a 1 percent increase in traffic. So we keep building more and more lanes to combat congestion and, especially if we do it in a haphazard manner, we’re gonna keep on having more and more congestion.”

She hopes to take a new “holistic” approach with House Bill 2688, which would remove “congestion relief” and “improved freight mobility” as a transportation goal, and instead focus on accessibility, safety, environment and climate, health and resilience, equity and environmental justice, preservation, and functionality, reports The Seattle Times.

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“So instead of continuing to build our roads where individual members come up with projects because there’s a congestion in their districts, what we need to be doing is we need to be looking at this holistically, and when we look at this holistically, we need to think about what do we want our transportation system to do? And I would argue that what we want is we want to provide accessibility,” Shewmake said.

It’s a concept referred to as induced demand, meaning that whenever we build out, roads quickly clog up because it’s the nature of expansion as buildings and communities grow around them.

For KIRO Radio’s John Curley, the measure is another example of the increased pressure to get drivers out of their cars.

“They don’t want you to drive, they want you out of your car … so let’s make this as uncomfortable and difficult as possible for people. We’re not gonna build out,” Curley said. “No more congestion relief because that’s a fool’s errand. Let’s talk about engagement and sustainability and leadership and integrity and innovation, and let’s talk about equity.”

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“Let’s come up with other plans as well, so we don’t have to deal with anybody having to be stuck in their car anymore,” he said. “We could talk about breaking down historical barriers that have stopped people from being able to fully utilize their life or whatever nonsense they’ve come up with. Washington Department of Transportation: Build roads and bridges and do stuff like that, and give us more lanes and let us drive in our cars.”

Listen to the Tom and Curley Show weekdays from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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