The Democrats weren't the only ones who were quick to politicize last night's mini-Minnesota bridge collapse on I-5, in which a portion of the interstate in Mt. Vernon fell into the Skagit River (The Democrats have seized on the bridge failure to promote their $8.4 billion transportation package, which includes $900 million for operations and maintenance and another $450 million to replace the aging Columbia River Crossing bridge between Vancouver and Portland, which was built in 1917 and upgraded in the mid-1950s. The CRC money helps pay for a light rail component as well. The $450 million would generate another $450 million from Oregon that that state has already approved, plus about $1 billion from the feds to cover the remaining cost of the project.)
The Republican spin on last night's bridge failure, from Washington State Republican Party Chair Kirby Wilbur: "I urge the Governor and his allies in the state House to finally get serious about a transportation plan."
Which brings us to today's installment of Isn't it Weird.
Isn't it Weird That ... The Republicans are reprimanding the Democrats for not "getting serious" about transportation when the Democrats have passed a transportation package out of the transportation committee that would fund transportation fixes—including a major fix on the I-5 corridor that would plug directly into Portland's 21st century light rail transit system—while the Republicans have balked?
The house Republicans voted against the package in committee and the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus in the senate has come out against the package, which has prevented the house from voting to send it over. Furthermore, the GOP's initial complaint was that they wanted transportation refrom before revenue. The Democrats took them up on it and passed two GOP proposals—a Rep. Hans Zeiger (R-25, Puyallup) bill that streamlined the construction permitting process and a Rep. Jay Rodne (R-5, N. Bend) bill that "right-sized" transportation projects by adding oversight that ensured the projects weren't excessively large.
The GOP's standing complaints: the CRC includes light rail funding; there's no referendum clause; and it comes with a 10-cent gas tax increase.
Back in the day, Republicans supported building stuff.
Wilbur, riffing off the bridge disaster, also criticizes the plan for having the wrong priorities—only "a mere 10% of their $8.8 billion proposal [is] designated for maintaining our crumbling highways."
That's pretty rich. Ten percent of $8.4 billion is a lot of money—about $900 million, which isn't enough, but is $900 million more than the GOP has proposed for fixing "our crumbling highways."
Wilbur also goes all talk radio on the Democrats' proposal, saying: "Our next package should not include a 10-cent gas tax increase that prioritizes stormwater runoff over the lives of Washingtonians."
Nice sound bite, but... for a package that puts about $250 million into hippie bike/ped projects while putting $900 million into maintenance and $3.8 billion into major roads projects, the liberal baiting just doesn't fly. (Nor does the project "prioritize" stormwater runoff money; it simply makes sure the maintenance and opearation money also considers stormwater needs along with safety and pavement durability to guard against cost inefficiencies in the future.) I guess it's time to realize: This is a new Republican party. Back in the day, Republicans supported building stuff.
Check out the Democratic project list—including $675 million for I-405, $135 million for the Snoqualmie Pass, $42 million for I-5 Marysvill Interchange, $3 million for Highway 16 in Gig Harbor—here.