Comment: Robust transportation funding can aid economy, jobs

Funding that addresses the needs of Snohomish County and the state is needed to aid recovery.

By Tyler Rourke, Doug Scott and Andrew Thompson / For The Herald

As we begin to experience some hope that increased vaccination rates will soon allow us to resume our lives in many pre-pandemic ways, deficiencies in our state’s transportation infrastructure are becoming more and more obvious, and challenging, with each passing day.

Nowhere in Snohomish County is this more evident than with the U.S. 2 trestle, which is inadequate in terms of safety, seismic vulnerability and limited capacity. Daily congestion along the trestle has negative impacts on quality of life for the county’s workers and families. This is true of many roads throughout the county and has been for quite some time. To address these issues, the state must pass a comprehensive transportation package.

It is clear our economy is struggling because of this pandemic, and many people are hurting financially. Some of the greatest consequences are being felt by our neighbors reliant on dependable mobility to physically get to their jobs. Unemployment is high and where there were transportation funding gaps before covid-19, we now have gaping holes. Our traditional revenue streams for transportation, including gas tax, tolls and ridership fees, are down, and will stay down for the next several years.

As is so often the case, low-income communities and communities of color have disproportionately borne the brunt of this crisis, in terms of job losses, illness and death. Many people could be put to work just maintaining our transportation system, which the Washington state Department of Transportation estimates will cost $8.1 billion over the next 10 years.

Every family in Washington is depending on a strong recovery, which is why the Legislature should focus its investments on ways to put people back to work and set the table for continuing, long-term economic growth. A comprehensive state transportation package will support job creation, move goods and people more efficiently, ensure mobility for our essential workers, reduce impacts to the natural environment, enhance safe travel for our families and use state dollars most effectively.

As the third largest county in Washington state, Snohomish County requires investments in transportation maintenance, construction and capacity to support jobs in all industries including aerospace, biotech, tourism and our rapidly growing rural areas. Expansion of multi-modal options throughout the county will be especially critical to sustainable growth, increased efficiency, environmental preservation, livability and safety.

As Sound Transit’s light rail approaches Lynnwood, and as we plan for its arrival in Everett by 2036, we must continue to expand transit and non-motorized options within our communities. Transit, bicycle, pedestrian and road investments provide important economic stimulus; they also help workers and employers move quickly and efficiently around the region. This saves time, money and the environment.

The right package will also address the fish barrier removal program to meet our moral and legal obligation that needs to happen within the next 10 years. A federal court injunction directs that we replace culverts under state highways and open 90 percent of fish habitat by 2030. This work will help restore our salmon, our whales and our state’s fishing industry.

Four transportation package proposals have been offered in Olympia; by both parties. We have an opportunity to pass bipartisan legislation that considers the local needs of Snohomish County and addresses the mobility challenges throughout the state of Washington.

Our economic recovery requires that state funds be allocated where they can do the most good. A comprehensive transportation funding package can put local people to work immediately and make the infrastructure improvements that are necessary to help us move forward.

Tyler Rourke is director for Everett Bike Walk. Doug Scott is president for the Northwest Washington Building & Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO. Andrew Thompson is chairman of Snohomish County Committee for Improved Transportation,

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