Report: Inaction on transportation is costing each WA driver $1,000+ a year

A business group says better roads, highways and bridges would bring more jobs while reducing the waste of time and fuel in traffic jams.
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Traffic on I-405 near the Highway 520 interchange: Is help on the way?

A business group says better roads, highways and bridges would bring more jobs while reducing the waste of time and fuel in traffic jams.

It was a reminder, a nudge.

The Washington Roundtable argued Tuesday that passing $7 billion worth of transportation improvements in the 2015 legislative session would create $42 billion worth of economic benefits to Washington in the next 30 years.

Looming in the background is a Legislature that has deadlocked in the past two sessions on a $10 billion to $12 billion transportation package. And legislators now face the possibility of a 2015 massive education funding showdown, potentially pushing transportation to a back burner.

"We have a call to action,” said Steve Mullin, president of the Washington Roundtable. The Roundtable is a public policy organization consisting of major private-sector employers.

The Washington Roundtable hired the Boston Consulting Group's Seattle office to map out the benefits from $7 billion worth of transportation improvements statewide -- picking seven high-profile projects that appear to have bipartisan support. These are a new north-south U.S.395 route through Spokane, widening Interstate 90 in Snoqualmie Pass, connecting I-5 to state routes 509 and 167, improvements on I-5 next to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, improvements on State Route 520 west of the Lake Washington bridge, widening I-405 from Bellevue to Renton, and $1.25 billion worth of highway maintenance.

The Boston Consulting study did not include mass-transit matters, ferries or countless local-level road and interchange fixes. Also while the Washington Roundtable believe the stalled transportation package should have $3.4 billion worth of highway and bridge maintenance, it settled on the $1.25 billion figure for the study because that amount appears to have guaranteed bipartisan support.

Mullin stopped short of assigning blame in the Legislature or of tilting toward one party over another in the November elections, using a Tuesday press conference as more of an encouragement to get a package passed.

The Legislature's Democrats propose a $10.5 billion package with a 10.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike with fewer projects than the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus's plan. The Majority Coalition's proposal calls for $12.3 billion in work partly paid for with an 11.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike. The coalition wants to get rid of the sales-and-use tax on transportation construction materials, which would reduce money to the state's general fund. The majority coalition also wants to shift the funding of storm water-runoff projects from gas-tax revenue to a state Ecology Department hazardous-substances tax. Democrats oppose the two budget shifts. Another wrinkle is that a majority of the Majority Coalition does not support its own proposal.

The Washington Roundtable supported a 9.5-cents-per-gallon tax increase two years ago. It has taken no position on the Republicans' two cost-shifting proposals.

Instead, the Roundtable stressed Boston Consulting's findings, which included:

  • Washington ranks 41st worst in the conditions of those highways and 41st worst in dealing with congestion. "We believe this is not sustainable," said Joel Janda, managing director of Boston Consulting.
  • Currently, Washington's congestion problems are costing each driver an average of $840 annually in fuel and lost time. With no change in the highways, that is predicted to increase to $940 annually by 2026.

  • Fourteen percent of Washington's roads are in poor condition, costing the averaging driver $380 a year in vehicle costs. With no changes by 2026, 60 percent of the state's roads will be in poor condition, costing the average driver $1,040 a year in vehicle costs.

Passing a package of at least $7 billion for highways and bridges would lead to new construction jobs, reduced congestion and the state's ports handling 50 percent more business in 10 years, the report found. Those points could amount to nudges for just about every legislator. 


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8