It’s like two hostile diners fighting over the check, even though one of them didn’t even eat his meal. Voters in the state’s rural counties have voted yea to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1125, which would hobble the use of highway tolling and block both dynamic tolling (a.k.a. congestion pricing) and light rail across Lake Washington. But those in Pugetopolis — especially King County — who would actually pay the tolls, and pay for the light rail, were voting it down.
Seven years ago, in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas?, the liberal polemicist Tom Frank asked why ideology trumped interest in the American heartland — why working and middle class voters stubbornly voted for (Republican) politicians and policies who screwed them and favored big business and the rich. The I-1125 vote reprises this mystery on a regional scale. King County, which would get the first and biggest congestion tolls and pay for the rail, turned out what may end up being the largest share (61.1 percent so far) against the initiative of all the state’s counties. Approximately the same big majority supported I-1125 in Cowlitz, Franklin, Lewis, Wahkiakum, and Yakima counties. Perhaps they feared the advent of rush-hour tolls in Cathlamet and Chehalis. But they’ll have to get rush hours (and, in Cathlamet’s case, a highway) first.
Some hyper-commuters from Kittitas actually would pay peak-hour tolls across Lake Washington, but they’re the exception. Luckily for the rural folks, King County’s raw numbers seem to have been enough to vote I-1125 down. Otherwise, Eyman suggested, if the Legislature couldn’t pass tolls to pay for new highways, it could issue bonds backed, ultimately, by the state general fund. But we Pugetopolitans have saved them from having to subsidize our highways.