Formula for more gridlock

Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1125 isn’t just one bad idea, it’s a bunch of them.

Their cumulative effect would severely damage the state’s ability to build and maintain the roads and bridges necessary to support a vibrant economy and good-paying jobs. We strongly encourage voters to reject it this fall.

We’ve supported some of Eyman’s efforts in the past, particularly those that forced government to seek more efficient ways to provide services rather than simply raising taxes. This isn’t one of those. It’s full of simplistic barriers to using highway tolls as a way to fund major transportation projects and reduce traffic congestion.

It is soundly opposed by the state’s major business groups and employers, including Boeing and Microsoft, for good reason. They know that with per-capita gasoline consumption dropping, and gas-tax revenue along with it, alternatives are needed to pay for our road infrastructure and keep commerce moving. Viable tolling options must be one of them, especially for major projects. I-1125 would wipe out the truly effective ones, leading to more traffic delays throughout the region.

How? Among other ways:

•It would require elected legislators to set tolls rather than the appointed, seven-member Transportation Commission. We once bought into the voter accountability argument for this, but that changed when a report commissioned by the state treasurer showed it would make borrowing for tolled projects about 18 percent more expensive. That’s because politicizing the setting of tolls creates the risk (or, perhaps, the likelihood) of legislative gridlock, prompting those who buy bonds to demand higher interest rates.

Not too many years from now, the westbound U.S. 2 trestle will need to be replaced. Tolls will undoubtedly be necessary to pay for that Snohomish County mega-project. Why make them higher than they need to be?

•It would require tolls be set at a flat rate. That kills variable tolling, an innovative tool that charges more during peak periods and less when the roadway is wide open, easing traffic congestion by encouraging more vehicles to travel at off-peak times.

Eyman decries such innovative thinking as “social engineering.” Please. It’s smart traffic management, and will make travel times more predictable for everyone while collecting needed revenue for roads.

Additionally, I-1125 would keep light rail from running across the I-90 bridge from Seattle to its eastern suburbs. That route is an underpinning of Sound Transit’s current plans, already funded by voters. Stopping it now will only increase future costs, along with traffic congestion.

I-1125 is a short-sighted measure our region can’t afford. Vote no.

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