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Misplaced Priorities in Senate Transportation Package Draw Stiff Criticism

Consumer Group Delivers Petitions and Opposition Letters Calling on House to Reform Bill
For Immediate Release

Seattle, WA - Today, WashPIRG (Washington Public Interest Research Group), Sierra Club Transportation Chair Tim Gould, and members of the community released hundreds of petitions and dozens of opposition letters signed by members of the community, local elected officials, small business owners, and students, calling on state legislators in the House to cut wasteful highway spending on projects like the Puget Sound Gateway.  The petitions and letters will be delivered to legislators in the House over the next few days.

“The spending priorities in this bill are horribly misplaced,” said Cecile Gernez, Transportation Campaign Organizer at WashPIRG. “For example, the Puget Sound Gateway is a terrible waste of public funds.  The more people learn about this project, the less they like it.  Meanwhile, our roads and bridges are crumbling.  State legislators need to get the priorities right and the Senate bill fails.”

While the Senate has backed the proposed Puget Sound Gateway with $1.8 billion in tax-payer money, the project has been criticized in recent months because it is based on plans conceived 65 years ago, without any real updates to reflect current needs; while proponents tout that it is important for trade, most trade in Washington will not benefit from the project; and it would divert funds from more important uses such as fixing existing roads and bridges, or creating more choices for how to travel in the region.

“Residents throughout Washington-- city and rural, millennials and aging boomers-- want more choices for how they get about and access the stuff of life” Said Tim Gould, chair of the Sierra Club Transportation and Land Use Committee.  “The state needs to invest more in transit statewide and pedestrian & bike projects to provide safe effective options to enable our mobility.”

Opponents of the Puget Sound Gateway point out that the state currently has 382 bridges that engineers have deemed “structurally deficient.” Money for the Puget Sound Gateway could instead be spent on fixing these bridges or on meeting other needs that will remain unmet if the project moves forward. In addition to being prone to safety problems, structurally deficient bridges become increasingly expensive to fix the longer they remain in disrepair.  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.  

Less than two years ago the I-5 bridge across the Skagit collapsed. More recently, the SR 410 White River bridge was closed for emergency repairs.  City and county roads across the state also need repair, but cash-strapped local governments simply don’t have the money to keep them in good shape.

Despite these and other pressing maintenance needs, the Senate Transportation package approved a meager $1.3 billion over the next 16 years for repair and preservation. That’s less than one-sixth the amount approved for new highway construction.  The Puget Sound Gateway project alone receives more funding than the entire highway preservation budget.  

The event presented a large poster with several dozen members of the community holding hand-written signs voicing their own objections to the project. 

“The community is against this project. People understand that the more dollars are poured into unjustified new highways, the fewer dollars will be available to fix our crumbling bridges, repair our roads, and expand travel options for Washingtonians” said Gernez.

Contact us for any questions relating to calculations for structurally deficient bridge repair costs. Please note that all calculations are based on data provided in Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory. 

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