Feet FirstDecember 27, 2019
Feet First believes in walkable places to improve our quality of life–communities with safe walking conditions, nearby jobs, stores, services, parks and gathering places, all connected to each other by frequent and reliable transit. We know we have far to go to reach that vision, and the passage of Initiative 976 dramatically increases the challenge. Counties, cities, and towns across the state have lost a critical funding source to maintain and improve the local streets which support all ways of traveling. Local transit agencies will have to cut services, which hurts most those who must walk or roll.
There is an immediate need to replace the lost funding, but we also must examine the policies that have led to systematically underfunding local streets and transit–making so many of our communities virtually unwalkable. The I-976 crisis is an opportunity for Governor Jay Inslee and the state legislature to address fundamental policy issues.
Put simply, Washington State policymakers have not let go of a 1950s planning paradigm that prioritizes moving the largest number of vehicles possible at high speeds. The result is an over-reliance on new highway construction while neglecting basic maintenance, as well as denying local jurisdictions the financing they need for safe local streets and robust transit.
From a transportation perspective, we’ve learned that focusing on moving a high volume of cars simply cannot meet our state’s transportation needs. Roger Millar, secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), was recently quoted as saying that WSDOT “spent 75% of its capital budget on expanding roads from 2004 to 2011 and increased lane capacity only by 1%.”
This policy emphasis has also deprioritized the safety, health and environmental futures of Washington state residents. Pedestrian deaths have doubled over the last decade, communities near state highways are burdened with greater rates of lung diseases, Puget Sound is more polluted, and the state’s greenhouse gas emissions are increasing.
The crisis caused by I-976 will not be solved by holding onto the policies and priorities that brought us to this point. It’s time to flip the focus. We are calling on the Governor and Legislature to review existing spending and reprioritize spending. Feet First recommends that Governor Inslee and the Legislature take the following specific actions as expeditiously as possible:
- Place a moratorium on road and highway expansion, and focus on maintenance first, particularly on projects that enhance safety on state routes through local communities where a significant number of pedestrian deaths occur.
- Give counties, cities, and towns more direct funding for local maintenance and street improvements, including funding for complete streets.
- Give local jurisdictions the progressive fundraising tools and authority they need to replace car tabs, so that they can adequately fund local transit, local streets, and walkable communities.
Feet First: Stop Building New Highway Lanes, Fund Local Streets and Transit First | The Urbanist
Feet FirstDecember 27, 2019 Feet First believes in walkable places to improve our quality of life–communities with safe walking conditions, nearby jobs, stores, services, parks and gathering places, all connected to each other by frequent and reliable transit. We know we have far to go to reach that vision, and the passage of Initiative 976… [Read More]