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

Rossi Plan as reported by Tacoma Tribune

Rossi plan would move $15.4 billion for roads
CURT WOODWARD; The Associated Press
Published: April 16th, 2008 01:00 AM
Republican gubernatorial contender Dino Rossi unveiled a $15.4 billion transportation plan Tuesday, saying he’d help traffic-weary drivers by diverting sales taxes to expand highways and fix bridges.

Heaping criticism on Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Democrat-dominated Legislature, Rossi said at Bellevue news conference that he’d also pour more money into ferries, offer a tax break on “green” cars and push for a tunnel to replace Seattle’s aging Alaskan Way viaduct. He would use the money to build two major highway projects in Pierce County: the cross-base highway and an extension of Highway 167 to the Port of Tacoma.

But, as predicted by Democrats, Rossi spared the details of how he’d make up for the lost sales tax revenue, which flows into the state’s main checking account and funds education, prisons and social services. The former state senator couldn’t offer specific strategies for getting his no-new-taxes plan through the Legislature, where similar GOP notions of repurposing transportation-related sales taxes have foundered.

He did point to his track record of working with Democrats – he helped write a bipartisan budget for the lean years of 2003-2005 – and said an urgency to fix the state’s lingering transportation problems would fuel his plans for reform.

Rossi said his plan was superior because the financing wouldn’t be subject to the same pressures as the state gas tax, which is now the primary funding source for state highway improvements. Gas tax revenue has flattened as fuel prices have risen.

“My opponent has no funding source, so therefore she has no plan,” Rossi said. “It’s not a plan unless you have a funding source. Otherwise, it’s just yapping. It’s just talking.”

Rossi said he would pay for the plan’s 30-year, $7.7 billion diversion of 40 percent of automobile sales taxes by scouring the state budget for savings. Without offering specifics, he said education and care for the vulnerable would be spared any spending cuts.

His financing package would divert from the general fund $2.4 billion in sales taxes that are usually paid on transportation projects, and it would tap a Sound Transit reserve for about $700 million. Tolls and existing project money would cover the balance.

The Gregoire campaign and state Democratic Party officials dismissed Rossi’s plan as a lot of fuzzy math, particularly the lack of specifics on how the GOP candidate would replace the sales tax revenue.

“When you cut through the baloney and the snake oil, Rossi’s plan means higher taxes, bigger tolls, and more traffic – all while blowing a hole in the budget that robs from education, health care and public safety,” state Democratic Party spokesman Kelly Steele said in a statement.

The heart of Rossi’s plan is an $11 billion list of nine road and bridge projects, with a priority on easing traffic congestion amid continued growth in the Puget Sound area and other populous regions of Washington.

In Pierce County, he would spend $1.7 billion to extend Highway 167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma. He would spend $252 million on the cross-base highway, a four-lane, six-mile link between Interstate 5 and Highway 7.

Other projects include a new Highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington, more lanes on Interstate 405 between Renton and Bellevue, and improvements on U.S. 2 across Stevens Pass.

Rossi’s hoped-for 520 bridge blueprints would allow expansion to eight lanes, although he said the cost of that additional asphalt is uncertain. The state’s current plans for the bridge call for six total lanes.

Rossi wouldn’t collect tolls on the bridge until completed, whereas Gregoire and the Legislature are moving toward imposing tolls before the project is built.

Rossi’s plan would put more money into ferry construction and a long list of road projects that are delayed or short of money under the state’s 16-year gas-tax program.

The Rossi plan also has “green” features, with a 10-year sales-tax break for owners of hybrid, electric or other alternative-fuel cars, a push to convert the state fleet to environmentally friendly vehicles, and more money to open up salmon-blocking stream culverts.

And while it’s heavy on roads and bridges, Rossi’s plan would leave transit planning to local officials. He would, however, combine Sound Transit and other Puget Sound-area transit and road agencies into a new regional board.

News Tribune staff writer Joseph Turner contributed to this report.

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