Opinion

Economy is in jeopardy without adequate local, state transportation funding | Commentary

Denis Law -
Denis Law
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By DENIS LAW

Simply put, our transportation system is in crisis, and the Washington State Legislature’s failure to act this year on a transportation package, with a local options component, will put our local, regional, and state economy in jeopardy.

That is the reason the Sounds Cities Association (SCA) Board of Directors voted unanimously to strongly urge the Legislature to pass a transportation package this year in order to address critical transportation infrastructure needs. SCA also voted unanimously adopted a position of support for a “local options” component to the package.  SCA represents 35 cities in King County and provides a regional voice for nearly one million people.

Data shows that without new investments, more than half the pavement on state roads and highways will be in poor condition by 2023. Failing roads and bridges, congested highway corridors, and bottlenecked interchanges undermine the mobility of vehicles, transit, and freight carriers to transport people and goods, and this in turn poses a real threat to our economy. Investing in maintaining and upgrading our transportation system is a positive step the Legislature can take to catalyze construction jobs, enhance freight mobility for our ports, and create a pathway for retaining and growing new jobs for key industry sectors.

The SCA Board also unanimously adopted a position of support for a “local options” component to the package. Specifically, for local jurisdictions that have formed a Transportation Benefit District, SCA urges the Legislature to expand from $20 to $40 the vehicle license fee that can be enacted through public vote or councilmanic action. In addition, SCA strongly urges the Legislature to give local jurisdictions the option of enacting an up to 1.5 percent Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, and that in King County, 60 percent of revenues be allocated to transit, with 40 percent allocated to cities and the county (distributed based on population) for roads, bridges, and other critical transportation infrastructure needs.

This local options package was born of much collaboration and compromise between our 35 member cities, the City of Seattle, and King County. We put aside political differences and worked together to come up with a package that could serve the needs of citizens and jurisdictions throughout our county. It is a balanced package that ensures that our transportation needs are addressed holistically, with a healthy mix of funding for transit, rural roads, and city streets. We recognize that we cannot view our infrastructure needs in isolation, and that we need to partner together to make strategic investments now as a region in order to keep our economy growing.

If cities are not given the tools we need at the local level, we may face cuts of up to 17 percent to transit service in King County. This would have a devastating effect on many of our local residents, and add to our already congested local streets and highways.

SCA represents cities large and small, urban and rural, and member elected officials run the gamut politically from left to right. While we come from different backgrounds and perspectives, we all came together and voted unanimously to support passage of a transportation package this year because we know just how critical transportation funding is to our local, regional, and state economy.

SCA joins local leaders in the business, labor, and environmental communities to strongly urge the Legislature to come together in the spirit of bipartisanship and compromise, and to pass a transportation package this year.

Denis Law is the president of the Sound Cities Association (SCA) and mayor of the City of Renton.  SCA (formerly the Suburban Cities Association) was founded in the 1970s to help cities in King County act locally and partner regionally to create vital, livable communities through advocacy, education, leadership, mutual support and networking. Collectively, the 35 member cities represent nearly one million constituents in King County.

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