By state Sen. Barbara Bailey
It’s no secret that our state has serious deficiencies within its transportation grid.
In the coming weeks, the state Senate is partnering with Washington State’s Department of Transportation to host a series of public meetings across the state focused on transportation. The intent is to garner public feedback from you, the taxpaying citizens of our state, to find out your thoughts on a gas-tax increase, what your transportation priorities are, and what you think is currently working or not working within our transportation system.
This is a big discussion and we cannot delay it any longer. The safety and prosperity of our communities and state depend upon strategic changes to our current transportation system and we need your support.
It is my hope that you will make the drive to Everett on Sept. 18 to join me in representing the geographically-unique 10th Legislative District that we call home.
We are one of the few districts in the state that rely on ferries and our water highways as main modes of transportation. Just a few short months ago, our region was affected by the disastrous collapse of the Skagit River bridge on Interstate-5. Miraculously, no one was fatally injured; however, businesses and families are still feeling the effects of detoured traffic and delayed freight.
Our roadways, particularly I-5, carry billions of dollars worth of exports every year. Our economy depends upon a stable transportation infrastructure to safely and efficiently move people and goods.
It seems like the media breaks a new story nearly every week documenting unreported engineering errors and cost overruns on transportation projects. It’s hard not to feel like our money is being wasted through inadequate accountability by WSDOT.
In order to have the kind of transportation system that everyone wants, additional revenue will be necessary. So the real questions in my mind are: where is that money going to come from and how can we be sure every penny is getting the greatest value possible?
If we are looking at long-term solutions, it seems that the most realistic response is two-fold. We need to reform current practices within WSDOT to increase efficiency, accountability and transparency before asking the public to dig into their pockets to pay for much-needed transportation infrastructure improvements.
How we spend the taxpayer dollar is of utmost importance to me. Prioritizing and differentiating between needs and wants will help the investment go further. We need structurally sound bridges; we want bike paths.
All of the ancillary things that people want – bike paths, sidewalks, community lighting – they are all very important, and things that I want, too. But the state’s responsibility is to collect dollars that will ensure our infrastructure does what it is supposed to do.
Please join me from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18 at Robert Drewel Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., 1st Floor, Everett.
Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, serves the 10th Legislative District. She is serving her first term in the Senate following 10 years in the House of Representatives.