After 15 votes, let's think smaller
Well, voters, you just blew a hole in this region's transportation planning big enough for a semi to drive through. It took two governors...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Well, voters, you just blew a hole in this region's transportation planning big enough for a semi to drive through.
It took two governors, a few dozen state legislators, 22 County Council members and a passel of city leaders five years to come up with Proposition 1, the $17.8 billion roads and light-rail plan. So much for all that.
You didn't reject this plan with a polite: "Hey, that was close, try again." You drubbed it. It was more like: "This plan is more of a mess than I-405 through the S-curves."
Early returns showed the measure losing by wide margins in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
So what happened? How could the most ambitious transportation plan ever presented to local voters veer so far off the tracks?
More importantly: What do we do now?
Here's what I think. You should know I voted "yes" — the losing side. I did so because I think Seattle badly needs light rail. Still do.
But I'm not so smitten with rail that I can't see the obvious when it smacks me in the head. The meaning of this vote is clear: The era of big projects is over.
At least it ought to be.
By my count, that was the 15th transportation-related vote held around these parts in the past dozen years. We voted twice on light rail, five times on monorail, twice on gas taxes for road building, once on Seattle property taxes for roads, three times on Tim Eyman transportation measures and once on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Tuesday's rail-and-roads vote makes 15.
Net result of all that talking and planning and voting? Not a helluva lot.
So I say forget it. Forget the big fixes and the megaprojects. Forget extending light rail, or any new freeways.
It's time to think smaller. Much smaller.
It's clear people feel taxed to the max. It wasn't just the big no vote on Prop. 1. Tim Eyman's anti-tax Initiative 960 appeared to be passing. A constitutional amendment to make it easier for schools to raise taxes appeared to be failing.
It doesn't mean we do nothing. Government simply has to replace the decrepit Evergreen Point Floating Bridge. The South Park Bridge is about to fall down. I bet voters would approve a tax — or some tolls — if it was solely to fix the damaged roads we've already got.
But big new stuff? Forget it. It costs too much. And there's too little trust.
Speaking of trust, Sound Transit should just go away and finish building its line from downtown to the airport that's now 80 percent done. After it opens, two years from now, then maybe we can talk about building more.
Of course all of this leaves us where we started when we began all this voting a dozen years ago. Stuck in traffic.
It's insane to go on spinning our wheels like this. There are ways to ease congestion without pouring any concrete. Like with tolls. Or, if we can't afford tolls, then by restricting use of certain roads at congested hours (as Seattle is doing on Third Avenue downtown.)
Surely 15 votes is enough, even for Seattle. Time to try something new.
Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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