Opinion

Editorial

"While the Washington State Legislature debates which enormous tax increase package to adopt to alleviate traffic congestion on the mainland, the only effective solution is as near as the closest ferry dock. The ferry model can solve the mainland traffic mess and the cost in dollars will be negligible.There's nothing complex about the ferry model. All it boils down to is having people pay a fee to use the highway system. That's what residents of Puget Sound's islands do. If a resident of Whidbey Island, for example, wants to take I-5 to Seattle, first he or she must pay $4 to the ferry system to get to the freeway.As a result of the highway access fee in the form of the ferries, islanders don't travel to the mainland that often. Many commuters share rides, join a vanpool, or take public transit. Shoppers drastically curtail the number of trips they make each week compared to how much shopping they would do if a free bridge linked Whidbey Island to the mainland.And although ferry rates keep increasing, there isn't a huge uproar from island residents. That's a price we're willing to pay to keep from paving over the island. A bridge on any ferry route would instantly decimate the island. Whidbey Island would quickly become Mukilteo which, in our eyes, would be a catastrophe.No matter how high the Legislature decides to raise taxes, and no matter how many new roads and bridges are built, mainland traffic congestion will not improve. In fact, it will get worse. If $5 billion is spent to save five minutes of drive time, developers can then extend their range five miles farther into the countryside, destroying still more land while keeping the commuter lanes full. It's a pointless exercise in paving and spending.Legislators instead should do what works. Follow the ferry model. Put toll booths up at all freeway entrances and charge people to use I-5, I-405, or any overused state highway. When that happens, people will start to carpool, vanpool, take the bus and voluntarily curtail the number of trips they make.The ferry system proves that it works. All it will take to solve the mainland traffic mess is some intestinal fortitude on the part of our elected representatives in Olympia. Which is why it won't happen. "

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