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Smart Growth America: Invest in Maintenance and Transit, Not New Roads

By Erica C. Barnett February 8, 2011

A new report from Smart Growth America suggests that Washington State invest heavily in repairing its roads and bridges---which saves money over the long run---and to fund more statewide investments in public transit, which "create almost twice the jobs that highways do, help others get to their jobs, and attract private sector investment, creating still more jobs."

Currently, the report found, the state needs nearly $1 billion in annual investment just to keep its roads and bridges in a safe state of repair. "Without a renewed commitment to system maintenance and repair, the state ensures a network of declining quality – with attendant safety problems, additional cost to Washington families for car repairs, and a loss of economic competitiveness as businesses target states with better freight access."

On transit, the report suggests specifically reallocating state dollars to pay for local transit service, rather than increasing fares:

"To address budget shortfalls, transit agencies across the state have proposed both fare increases and service cuts that disproportionately impact lower-income households. From 2004 to 2008, the state of Washington contributed only 10% of annual transit budget needs statewide, leaving the responsibility largely to local and federal governments. It ranked 27th in the nation for supporting transit. By not contributing more toward transit, Washington is missing a critical opportunity to create jobs and boost regional and state economies."

The report doesn't explicitly mention the deep-bore tunnel, but it's hard not to draw the connection. If the state invested those billions in transit, it would create more jobs, and move far more people, than a limited-access underground freeway that dumps 80,000 cars onto downtown streets.
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