It will be an interesting ride, so to speak, from here to November. The legislature and others have made a gamble with this Roads and Transit joint RTID package. It’s already drawing criticism from pro-transit and pro-environmental groups who say it includes too much money for highways, and criticism from anti-tax and anti-Sound Transit groups who don’t want to see any more money spent on rail.
But, to paraphrase a former Secretary of Defense, you go to the ballot box with the transit plan you have, not the plan you might want or wish to have. Compromise is part of that. Not everyone gets to design their dream infrastructure. There are some things in this package that seem misguided (like the Cross Base Highway), but this is the cost of doing business.
Barring any great changes in the cost or scope, I’ll be voting yes for the fall Roads and Transit plan, and I encourage everyone to do the same. In fact, between now and November, making the case for a “yes” vote will be our raison d’etre here at Orphan Road.
Why? Simply because every year we wait, construction and property costs increase by as much as 15%, or 5 times the rate of inflation. That means that each year, it costs more to build less. Just to put that in perspective, it means that the cost of a $17 billion package will go up by as much as $2.5 billion just by waiting a year. That alone is more than enough to widen I-405 (estimated at $1B). By approving the package this year as opposed to next, those projects are essentially free.
Of course, you might argue that adding highway lanes are never free, since they add to our reliance on automobiles. That’s valid, but it’s worth noting that widening 405 is a pretty mild step compared with building 49 miles of light rail. There’s no real radical road package to oppose here, like, for example, a new I-605 cutting through the Cascade foothills. It’s all pretty basic stuff. By voting “no” on this package, transit supporters would be cutting off their nose to spite their face.