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Congestion conjecture: Eyman's I-985

Washington's major professional association of transportation engineers delivered a withering blast at Initiative 985 Wednesday, warning that rather than reducing congestion, as it purports to do, the measure would increase congestion on Seattle-area roads and possibly reduce safety as well.
Highway 520 in Bellevue at evening rush hour.

Highway 520 in Bellevue at evening rush hour. WSDOT

Washington members of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) voted Wednesday to oppose I-985. "The best professional judgment of these engineers is that I-985 contains significant flaws that will likely, on net, increase congestion and possibly impact safety on the roads and highways of metropolitan Puget Sound," the ITE reported Tuesday on its Web site.

The ITE is most concerned with I-985's mandated hours and rules for carpool lanes, which the society said could result in increased accidents, slower emergency response, poorer transit service, and even increased drive-alone trips.

Engineers expressed concerns with other aspects of I-985:

(1) inflexible rules for traffic signal synchronization that fail to allow local jurisdictions to manage traffic signals based on local needs; (2) a reduction in funding sources for red-light cameras, which could undermine safety at high-collision intersections and school zones; and (3) significant public outlays for capital equipment and management changes that yield no tangible benefits for road performance.

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) staff also raises alarms over the way I-985 sets carpool lane regulations into law, preventing transportation planners from reacting to changed traffic patterns and also costing the region an estimated $20 million in federal highway funds because of reduction in carpool-lane hours.

The carpool lanes could operate only from 6-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m., and the report notes that in several locations the rush hour already exceeds those hours. The restrictions would also govern beyond I-5 and I-405, and include half a dozen other carpool-lane locations as well as the westbound lanes on the 520 bridge approach, which currently requires three occupants. The westbound carpool lane, a converted shoulder, is not designed to handle the added traffic if I-985's two-occupant rule went into effect, the report notes.

The so-called "Reduce Traffic Congestion" initiative, the latest product by initiative entrepreneur Tim Eyman, got off to a strong start, as initiatives do when they contain an attractive title. But as information began to dribble out to counter Eyman's claims, the measure began to falter. The Elway Poll's July survey showed it with a 58-28 margin with 14 percent undecided; by September it was down to 51-29 with 20 percent undecided. Perhaps significantly, support was highest in the Puget Sound region, home to the worst traffic congestion but also where media attention has only recently begun to focus on the initiative.

As voters receive their Voters' Pamphlets, they will also face for the first time the dollar costs and shifting of funds under I-985.

The state's fiscal impact statement, in the Voters' Pamphlet, estimates that in five years, $622 million would be shifted from various state and local transportation funds into a new Reduce Traffic Congestion Account. Approximately half would go for items specified in I-985, primarily to change high-occupancy traffic lanes in the Puget Sound area. The rest could be spent on "reducing traffic congestion," except it could not be used for mass transit, which remains the major alternative to highways for most commuters.

Since most of the revenue ($573 million) is from sales-and-use taxes on motor vehicles, collected statewide, and most of the congestion expenditures would be in the Puget Sound area, the Eyman initiative would seem to drain tax revenues from the rest of the state for use in the Everett-Seattle-Tacoma corridor.

The major expenditure, an estimated $224 million over five years, would be to open carpool lanes to all vehicles in off-peak hours, largely a Seattle-area item that is not even mentioned, let alone supported, in Brian Sonntag's traffic congestion audit of 2007, which Eyman clings to at every turn.

In fact, a comprehensive reading of Sonntag's audit (pdf) and Eyman's I-985 reveals that the two are not even kissing cousins, let alone identical twins. Eyman claims in numerous forums to be doing the work Sonntag outlined, because "Olympia" won't pay attention. But most solutions Eyman proposes in I-985 don't match those in Sonntag's audit and actually oppose or checkmate the audit in several places.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 6:21 p.m. Inappropriate

No Suprise, the "people" who gave us congestion: over the past 3 decades, the socialist planners, the state DOT and Seattle's liberal mindset are opposed to any change to their "turf" !

If they had done ANY creative, proactive thinking they would have done the following : build a second Seattle bypass freeway east of 405, with capacity for segregated truck traffic and limited entry-access for local traffic, give the viaduct and I-5 between south center and shoreline to king county - they could then screw it up anyway they wanted, as long as they funded the stupidity, rebuild the 520 with added capacity and begin the process of making both floating bridges as the means to enter/exit Seattle and FINALLY, implement a regional plan to grow and promote buses.

light rail ??? Nothing more than a tremendous waist of valuable transportation funds ! Oh wait, it will allow the gang culture of rainier valley a new means to grow and expand their drug and thug culture - thank you sound transit !

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 6:22 p.m. Inappropriate

Here's why I-985 will be approved by voters: I-985 GETS OLYMPIA TO TAKE SONNTAG'S AUDITS SERIOUSLY

We're very proud of I-985's congestion relief policies. Carpool lanes opened during non-peak hours, traffic lights synchronized to optimize traffic flow, accidents cleared out faster, making it clear that people want ‘reducing traffic congestion' to be the top transportation priority, all without raising taxes.

They're positive and important policies. But they're not the primary reason we've sponsored I-985.

In 2005, voters gave State Auditor Brian Sonntag, Washington's most trusted elected official, the authority to conduct independent, comprehensive performance audits of state and local governments by overwhelmingly approving Initiative 900. In the years since its passage, he's hired outside experts to learn how state and local governments can spend our tax dollars more effectively. He's completed 11 audits, made 499 recommendations, and identified $3.2 billion in potential savings. But rather than embracing Sonntag's reform recommendations, Olympia keeps ignoring them.

Our primary motivation for I-985 is to show Olympia that voters don't want higher taxes; they want government to spend more effectively the money they're already taking from us by implementing Sonntag's growing list of audit recommendations.

So we picked the performance audit on the state's abysmal failure reducing traffic congestion as the cattle prod. Sonntag's report on reducing congestion made 22 recommendations - Olympia ignored all of them.

I-985 implements common sense reforms based on recommendations from State Auditor Brian Sonntag's thorough investigation.

Requiring local governments to synchronize traffic lights on heavily-traveled arterials and streets - this single reform reduces traffic congestion 6-7% (more on this below). Clearing out accidents faster - absolutely. Opening carpool lanes to everyone during non-peak hours - it's what other states do and illustrates that increased capacity reduces congestion. But politicians arrogantly refuse to implement ANY of Auditor Sonntag's recommendations.

From Auditor Sonntag's 2007 report: "Citizens have identified congestion as a priority, and therefore so must the Department of Transportation and the Legislature."

Democrat Sonntag's performance audit reported that 80% of citizens wanted "reducing traffic congestion" to be the top transportation priority. Taxpayers pay billions in taxes and fees every year - they expect their money to strongly support the people's top transportation priority: reducing the time it takes to drive our vehicles from point A to point B. Sonntag's audit and I-985 advocate getting better use from existing streets and highways while also addressing chokepoints with increased capacity to significantly reduce travel times for everyone. Approving I-985 tells politicians that voters want this approach.

CONTINUED ON NEXT POST
timeyman

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 6:23 p.m. Inappropriate

Here's why I-985 will be approved by voters (CONTINUED): Let me put an exclamation point on I-985's traffic light synchronization requirement. Every city and county in the state will benefit from I-985's mandate that traffic flow be optimized within its jurisdiction, especially since I-985 provides state funds to pay for its costs.

Lynnwood is a national model with digital, minute-by-minute traffic flow optimization. As reported by the Everett Herald: "Working from a cramped collection of cubicles inside City Hall, these techno wizards operate what at least one outside expert considers to be one of the best traffic management centers around. ‘The whole system is coordinated to give the best possible outcomes to traffic flow,' deputy public works director Jeff Elekes said."

I-985 guarantees that Lynnwood's optimized traffic flow program will be available within the borders of all 281 cities and 39 counties and won't require a penny of city or county funds to pay for it.

I-985 dedicates existing transportation-related revenues that are currently being diverted to non-transportation spending.

I-985 DOESN'T RAISE TAXES, instead it dedicates red light camera profits, a small portion of vehicle sales taxes, and "1/2% for reducing congestion" for any transportation-related project (removes "1/2% for public art") to reducing congestion. I-985 guarantees that tolls on a project won't be diverted away from that specific project, preventing tolls from becoming just another pot of money for politicians to spread around. And I-985 empowers Auditor Sonntag to track revenues and expenditures, helping implement I-985's reforms and reporting regularly to the public on its progress.

Washington is the 5th highest taxed state in the nation - I-985 keeps us from hitting #1.

Opponents' proposals force taxpayers to pay more - I-985 forces politicians to spend existing revenues more effectively, implementing immediate, cost-effective solutions. Sonntag hired world-class transportation experts - their professional, independent analysis showed Sonntag's reforms will reduce congestion 15-20%, provide $3 billion boost to our state's struggling economy BENEFITING EVERYONE. I-985's opening HOV (express, carpool, bus-only) lanes during non-peak hours reduces congestion.

Taxpayers are tapped out. I-985 tells politicians to prioritize, spending what we already pay more effectively. Let's tell politicians: don't take more from taxpayers, adopt Sonntag's growing list of audit recommendations. Vote "Yes" on I-985.

Tim Eyman is co-sponsor of Reduce Traffic Congestion Initiative I-985 and heads up Voters Want More Choices, a grassroots taxpayer protection organization, 425-493-8707, tim_eyman@comcast.net, www.ReduceCongestion.org
timeyman

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 6:41 p.m. Inappropriate

Tickets are going fast for the Eyman vs. Sims debate next week: RE: Tickets are going fast for the Eyman vs. Sims debate next week

We're getting deluged with overwhelming enthusiasm and excitement from supporters concerning next week's Super Bowl debate between Eyman and Sims on Thursday, October 16th. Ron Sims personifies Goliath governmental arrogance and Eyman personifies David don't-trust-'em-for-a-minute activism.

As a reporter for the TNT wrote: "Tim Eyman vs. Ron Sims: Bombastic pair to debate I-985 -- I've seen both of them speak. Eyman is the in-your-face, mile-a-minute talker. Sims is your classic southern preacher.
Each of them will try to baptize his listeners."

Next week's clash over I-985 promises to be incredibly interesting and entertaining.

Debate moderator Essex Porter (KIRO 7) will no doubt have his hands full while Sims promotes his and Gregoire's scheme for a state income tax, as well as his "Master Plan" to impose tolls on every mile we drive, ON TOP OF THE EXISTING AND CRUSHING TAX BURDEN WE'RE ALREADY PAYING, INCLUDING THE HIGHEST IN THE NATION GAS TAX.

So far, the paltry few opponents we have this year haven't laid a glove on I-985 or its policies. What's got them totally flummoxed is State Auditor Brian Sonntag, our state's most trusted elected official. When asked by KUOW's Ross Reynolds what he thought of I-985, Sonntag said "it's a good idea." When asked by KUOW's Steve Scher whether we're correct when we say that Olympia ignored his congestion audit recommendations, Sonntag said "I think there is some validity to that." He went on to say that I-985's "effort to take our audit findings, to take our audit reports and the constructive nature of that and try to move it into action I think is a laudable next step." When asked whether the approach that I-985 takes is "a fair interpretation of your audit," Sonntag responded "Yes, yes it is."

Auditor Sonntag didn't endorse I-900 in 2005 and he's not endorsing
I-985 this year -- he believes that since it's the citizens' initiative process that it should be the citizens who decide. But he said that should voters approve I-985, "we can handle it."

Here's the role that Auditor Sonntag has in I-985. I-985 requires all
281 cities and all 39 counties to optimize traffic flow within their jurisdictions by synchronizing their traffic lights using digital, state-of-the-art technology. That costs money but INSTEAD OF RAISING TAXES, I-985 dedicates less than 1/2 of 1% sliver of the state's general fund (a small portion of vehicle sales tax revenue) into a dedicated account which will provide more than enough money for cities and counties to implement I-985's traffic flow optimization requirement. Under I-985, Sonntag is tasked with helping cities and counties fulfill this optimum traffic flow requirement. Even more importantly, I-985 requires Auditor Sonntag to MEASURE THEIR RESULTS and report regularly to the public on their progress. The voters will know which cities and counties are doing a good job and which are doing a bad job. It's called accountability.

When voters approve I-985, they're hiring Auditor Sonntag to oversee the government's implementation of I-985's policies and to serve as a watchdog for the taxpayers.

CONTINUED ON NEXT POST
timeyman

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 6:42 p.m. Inappropriate

If you'd like to attend next Thursday's debate between Sims & Eyman: If you'd like to attend next Thursday's debate, contact the Seattle City Club, they are the sponsors of the debate -- (206) 682-7395 or cityclub@seattlecityclub.org -- they'll get you reserved for this event at the Washington Athletic Club (address for mapquest: 1325 6th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101)

The cost to attend the luncheon debate (11:30 am - 1:30 pm) on Thursday, October 16th is:

* You can attend and have lunch: $45 for the general public, $35 for city club members or guests of members
* You can attend and have coffee: $8 for the general public, $5 for city club members or guests of members
* Members of the media can attend for free

If you can't attend (understandable because our supporters are burdened by having jobs), we'll be sure to send out the times the debate will be aired by TVW.

I-985 is a well-thought-out, professional, comprehensive transportation reform proposal; it offers immediate, cost-effective solutions with built-in accountability and oversight by Washington's most trusted elected official.
And rather than raising taxes, I-985 instead funds its common sense policies with transportation-related taxes and charges that we, the citizens, are already paying.

http://www.ReduceCongestion.org
timeyman

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 7:44 p.m. Inappropriate

Tim Eyman's big Earmark to Nowhere: Do you trust Tim Eyman? To know what the best use is of $600 million in tax dollars? He doesn't think so.

That might be one reason why he fronts his I-985 with falsehoods about an audit by the state Auditor, which concluded that peak traffic on HOV lanes is growing to be an all day way of life around here. Read it.

Yet Eyman bad traffic lasts for 3 hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon - everywhere. The wrong hours. The wrong solution. The wrong thing to spend hundreds of millions on.

The result: more traffic congestion in the most congested places. We all pay for it. It makes traffic worse. That's typically called waste.

Eyman is wrong on this subject. Dead wrong. Obviously wrong. Stupidly wrong. And it is reason enough to reject his fatally flawed destructive wasteful initiative. (There are multiple other falsehoods, mistakes, flubs, misunderstandings, lawsuits, studies, and much more waste caused by this initiative and promoted by Eyman. But who has time for all of it?)

Where is the news media? Why aren't they calling BS on Eyman? When did reporters and editors start making Eyman a traffic expert? Which traffic experts are on his side on this? Can you find one? Anywhere?

None of the experts involved in the state audit agree with I-985. Not one. Call them. (Eyman will quote the state Auditor, bless Sonntag's soul, who has zero experience on the subject.)

Fact check all of the above. All of it. The ask yourself whether the author of I-985 is honest, has good judgement, and, in the end, whether he knows how best to spend $600 million of your money on anything, let alone solving traffic congestion with clever words.

$600 million or so is just the start on the waste involved in I-985. Think of it as Tim Eyman's big bridge to nowhere, but worse. At least Alaska would have received a benefit. I-985 is mostly loaded with bad investments. It will set the record, win the Oscar, for extreme government waste.
Tarl

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 8:37 p.m. Inappropriate

Sonntag has totally flummoxed our opponents: So far, the paltry few opponents we have this year haven't laid a glove on I-985 or its policies. What's got them totally flummoxed is State Auditor Brian Sonntag, our state's most trusted elected official. When asked by KUOW's Ross Reynolds what he thought of I-985, Sonntag said "it's a good idea." When asked by KUOW's Steve Scher whether we're correct when we say that Olympia ignored his congestion audit recommendations, Sonntag said "I think there is some validity to that." He went on to say that I-985's "effort to take our audit findings, to take our audit reports and the constructive nature of that and try to move it into action I think is a laudable next step." When asked whether the approach that I-985 takes is "a fair interpretation of your audit," Sonntag responded "Yes, yes it is."

Auditor Sonntag didn't endorse I-900 in 2005 and he's not endorsing I-985 this year -- he believes that since it's the citizens' initiative process that it should be the citizens who decide. But he said that should voters approve I-985, "we can handle it."

Here's the role that Auditor Sonntag has in I-985. I-985 requires all 281 cities and all 39 counties to optimize traffic flow within their jurisdictions by synchronizing their traffic lights using digital, state-of-the-art technology. That costs money but INSTEAD OF RAISING TAXES, I-985 dedicates less than 1/2 of 1% sliver of the state's general fund (a small portion of vehicle sales tax revenue) into a dedicated account which will provide more than enough money for cities and counties to implement I-985's traffic flow optimization requirement. Under I-985, Sonntag is tasked with helping cities and counties fulfill this optimum traffic flow requirement. Even more importantly, I-985 requires Auditor Sonntag to MEASURE THEIR RESULTS and report regularly to the public on their progress. The voters will know which cities and counties are doing a good job and which are doing a bad job. It's called accountability.

When voters approve I-985, they're hiring Auditor Sonntag to oversee the government's implementation of I-985's policies and to serve as a watchdog for the taxpayers.

Here's Sonntag on the team he used to do the congestion audit: "We had nationally recognized transportation experts come in and do this audit. They had done performance audits of transportation areas in Michigan as well as Oregon and California even some work in Texas. And what they looked at was the fact that even in state statute, as well as Department of Transportation's own policies, they removed congestion relief as one of their top three priorities. And it used to be along with maintenance and safety, congestion relief was a priority even in state law, listed as a priority. And the Department of Transportation and the state Legislature removed that as a priority. So to point out the fact that congestion relief seemed to be a priority only to citizens, people stuck in congestion, and not a priority of the agency responsible, was an important point to note."

http://www.ReduceCongestion.org
timeyman

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 9:14 p.m. Inappropriate

Cha Cha Cha: All indications are that I-985 would waste hundreds of millions to make congestion worse where it is the worst now.

That's what the state's engineers say.

Sonntag's audit doesn't recommend opening up HOV lanes to everybody.
Tarl

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 9:18 p.m. Inappropriate

Wrong again: I-985 doesn't fully fund city efforts to synchronize traffic signals. It tells cities they must do it and says state legislators should provide money to "assist" cities.

Legislators would decide which cities get what.

Why didn't you write a law that actually does what you claim Tim?
Tarl

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 9:26 p.m. Inappropriate

We already hired Sonntag. He's being re-elected.: I-985 wastes millions more on studies for Sonntag's consultants.

Better yet, I-985 puts all the power for spending all the money I-985 shifts to state legislators. They'll decide. And you can bet they'll do their best to bring home the bacon.

Why didn't I-985 include performance standards legislators would be required to meet?

If Tim Eyman wanted all the HOV lanes switch within 90 days after the election, why didn't he write that into the initiative, instead of what he actually wrote, which was to wait until legislators decide to spend the money shifted and a new budget takes effect next summer?
Tarl

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 10:02 p.m. Inappropriate

Flawed and Inflexible: I've read the audit and Tim Eyman can't fool me.

The audit only recommends opening underused portions of the HOV system not the entire system. It recommends using HOT lanes to efficiently use our roadways but I-985 provisions will make them useless.

What's the benefit/cost ratio of synchronizing traffic lights in areas that don't need it? Even if it didn't require more taxes, it's a waste of money.

Transportation professionals and engineers in this state seem to disagree. Read their analysis.

Tim Eyman never thinks of the unintended consequences his initiatives causes.

I-985 is a good step in starting the conversation but its implementation of the audit's recommendations is incomplete and severely flawed. Vote No to I-985
oranviri

Posted Wed, Oct 8, 10:28 p.m. Inappropriate

So - Replace engineering with politics?: Is this how we want to do traffic engineering - by popular opinion? The engineering industry takes its standards and processes seriously for a reason -- they have evidence to prove they can save lives and move traffic efficiently.

The last 25 years has been characterized by government being run by people who are invested in showing that government fails. Are we really so cynical that we want to replace good government and engineering with politicians like Tim Eyman who know nothing about the engineering implications of their actions, and worse, don't care?

Posted Thu, Oct 9, 8:26 a.m. Inappropriate

Night Night Tim: So, as I track your E-mails Tim, you hovered over your computer last night for a few hours, gleefully feeding your immense ego and egging on the opposition to your latest misguided initiative. Further feeding the ego, while promoting your latest fundraising effort.

As cities attempt to deal with the devastation of I-695 (which of course isn't your fault), just know this. Those who know transportation, those who know public finance, and those who know how charlatans game the system are on to you. Shame on you for the damage you are causing this State, but I have no doubt you will continue for as long as it pays the mortgage.

Oh, you're no doubt awake by now, just hankering to take a self absorbed, self interested, self promoting shot at someone. Be my guest.
chance

Posted Thu, Oct 9, 11:32 a.m. Inappropriate

I-985 meaningless to most of the state: I'm still waiting to see what I-985 means for those of us east of the Cascades.

Oh, wait, that's right, Tim Eyman couldn't care less about us over here. He just thinks we're all morons. Never mind.
RJ

Posted Thu, Oct 9, 8:03 p.m. Inappropriate

The list of opponents to 985 is growing fast: Organizations representing 10s of thousand of people in the state are opposing Eyman's worst fraud ever, I-985.

It has taken some time because people are busy and losing money to other scams. It is getting easier because Eyman's most stupid scam has been revealed. I-985 wastes money in tight times, makes traffic worse, and increases traffic congestion.

Today the Tri-City Herald reported that nobody running for the state legislature there supports I-985, and the bulk of people running are conservative republicans. The reason? I-985 is deeply flawed.

It doesn't do what Tim Eyman says it does. He completely screwed up in drafting the law and is now trying to cover up extreme errors.
Tarl

Posted Fri, Oct 10, 10:37 a.m. Inappropriate

RE: I-985 meaningless to most of the state: Don't worry, I-985 will screw you too. Eyman is an equal opportunity parasite. 985 will cut road funding for rural areas, which means most of Washington outside the Puget Sound corridor. It's one of his dumbest so far.

jk

Posted Fri, Oct 10, 9:40 p.m. Inappropriate

HOV lanes off peak: Spending money to open up HOV lanes off peak is one of the stupidest things I can imagine doing.

By definition, in the off peak hours, traffic should be flowing freely, and the HOV lane is not needed for normal traffic. So opening up HOV does little good.

Unless the inflexibility of the initiative is such that it mandates opening HOV lanes during times when there is still peak traffic flow.

The purpose of HOV lanes is two-fold. To provide for reliable and rapid transit times for transit, and provide an incentive for people to carpool. That purpose exists 7x24. Opening up HOV lanes when traffic isn't heavy doesn't do anything, it wastes resources, and it causes confusion.
carls

Posted Tue, Oct 14, 11:11 a.m. Inappropriate

The only way to reduce congestion is to get rid of GMA.

We need to build on and over the mountains.

jabailo

Posted Sat, Feb 27, 7:58 a.m. Inappropriate

People could try to form a carpool so they can help reduce congestion. They can also save up to 2000 $ and 1,5 tonnes of CO2 per year. This is what came out for my daily commutes on the carbon dioxide calculator and driving cost of The carpooling network : http://www.carpoolingnetwork.com

pete926

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