The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Everett Herald leads with Rossi's plan to fix I-2 Killer Highway

Rossi has plan to fix U.S. 2

Candidate would tap general fund for work

By Jerry Cornfield
Herald Writer

SULTAN -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi drove one of the deadliest stretches of U.S. 2 on Tuesday and then pledged to residents and community leaders to deliver $600 million to make the road safer.

Rain fell and temperatures dropped as Rossi said those dollars could pay for projects such as a bypass around Monroe and wider ramps linking the highway with I-5 or other ones desired by the community, he said.

"Highway 2 has become very dangerous. This has been languishing for too long," Rossi said to about 50 people gathered at the gazebo in River Park.

Rossi discussed U.S. 2 as part of a broader plan for transportation policy he outlined Tuesday in Sultan and Bellevue. Today he continues the roll out in Spokane as it becomes clear the issue of transportation will be a cornerstone of his campaign to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire.

"My opponent has no plan," he told those in Sultan. "There is no plan out there right now, because there is no funding source."

Rossi laid out a list of $15.4 billion in projects that could be finished in 12 years and insisted he can pay for them all -- though not with a means accepted by the Legislature's Democratic majority.

To finance the work, Rossi wants to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from the general fund starting in 2009. The state presently relies on gas taxes for its transportation needs.

He's suggesting using a portion of sales tax paid on new and used cars and on transportation construction projects. If it did, Washington would join 33 other states already tapping their general fund for roads, he said.

"I think his plan is bogus," said Aaron Toso, a Gregoire campaign spokesman. "He's taking $10 billion out of the general fund. He'll either be raising taxes or cutting education and health care."

Rossi anticipated such criticism. He said revenues into the state continue to grow each year.

"Nobody has to lose any funds. There will not be one dime less" for education and health care and other programs, he said.

Much of Rossi's plan is not new.

His call for widening Highway 9 in Snohomish County was in the Proposition 1 ballot measure rejected by voters in November.

He also backs building a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct and making a new Highway 520 bridge eight lanes wide, two other much-discussed ideas.

On U.S. 2 specifically, one of Rossi's proposals is grinding rumble strips in the center median on a 15-mile stretch between Monroe and Gold Bar. The state is already paying to grind that stretch plus 30 miles more of the highway.

He vows to overhaul the running of the state ferry system. He said new car and passenger ferries slated for construction will be built on time and on budget and the work contracted to non-Washington firms if that's what it requires, he said.

He promises hundreds of culverts blocking the travel of salmon will be opened up and transit and transportation planning in the Puget Sound will be placed under control of one superagency.

Gregoire also supports a single regional transportation agency but the Democratic-controlled Legislature turned it down this year.

Most folks Tuesday wanted to hear Rossi talk about U.S. 2, where 49 people have died in crashes since the late 1990s.

Rossi said despite the deaths, Gregoire came up with only $3.6 million and the Legislature added another $10 million. He said his funding plan is the vehicle for getting to $600 million.

Thomas Cock, whose teenage son died in a crash on U.S. 2 in December, spoke at the event at Rossi's invitation and said the GOP candidate's plan is the type of change for which he's been advocating.

"We should demand safer roads," Cock said.

Fred Walser of Monroe, leader of the U.S. 2 Safety Coalition and a Democratic candidate for state Senate, attended and said Rossi's proposal sounded good. "Whether it's feasible or not, I can't say."

He praised Gregoire for pushing through the money, saying the area's three Republican lawmakers did not secure funding for the highway in 2003 and 2005, when the Legislature committed to billions of dollars of improvements with new gas taxes.

"The governor deserves credit for responding. I don't think there is any quick-and-simple fixes," he said.

His wife, Monroe Mayor Donetta Walser, said beforehand that she's disappointed that the road's safety is becoming a political issue.

"It is about saving lives," she said. "People that die, I don't think of them as Democrat, Republican or independent. They are members of our community."

Rossi also said Tuesday he would fire Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond because she's not made erasing traffic snarls the department's highest priority.

"We have to have somebody onboard who is interested in congestion relief," he said.

Gregoire appointed Hammond in November and the state Senate confirmed her appointment this session.

In response, Hammond said, "I think it's harsh. But it's his prerogative to hire who he wants for his cabinet."

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or

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