If Washington legislators are going to ask taxpayers to spend more money on transportation, they should do so responsibly. But both of the state Legislature’s transportation packages — one passed by the state Senate and one by the House Transportation Committee — are wasteful, misguided, irresponsible and a bad deal for Washington residents.
Consider the problem of bridge maintenance. Less than two years ago the I-5 bridge across the Skagit River collapsed. More recently, the State Route 410 White River bridge was closed for emergency repairs. Yet these mishaps represent just the tip of the iceberg. According to new Federal Highway Administration data released in January, 382 bridges in Washington were structurally deficient at the end of 2014, an increase of 10 over the 2013 statewide total, and an increase of 16 over the 2012 count.
Similarly, many city and county roads across the state are in dire need of repair, but cash-strapped local governments simply don’t have the money to keep them in good shape.
Yet despite these and other pressing maintenance needs, both packages would approve meager funding over the next 16 years for maintenance — and five times more money to new road projects than for fixing the roads and bridges we already have. It makes no sense to splurge on new highways while existing roads and bridges fall into disrepair. It’s like building an addition on your home when the roof is leaking and the foundation is cracked. Besides, numerous studies have found that repair and maintenance creates more jobs than new construction.