Most of Initiative 985 Money to go for Road Building

What a surprise. The bulk of the money siphoned by Initiative 985 from the Washington State General Fund will go for “increasing road capacity”. It’s not really about carpool lanes or traffic synchronization, except as a gimmick to convince voters to set up a special fund to “increase road capacity.”

Initiative 985 is really a stealth attack to siphon money now committed to education and public safety in the state budget and spend it for building more roads – an approach that has been shown elsewhere to not reduce congestion but just increase more cars on the road.

Eyman likes to say it will not increase taxes but the reality is it will take new taxes to make up the cuts in money now allocated to other state programs like education and public safety in the budget or it will entail cutting education and public safety.

The Washington State Office of Financial Management has released their revised financial impact of Initiative 985 to be in the voter’s pamphlet.

Their analysis does a breakdown of where the approximately $573.9 million dollars, mostly siphoned out of the state’s general fund over 5 years, will be spent.

The bulk of this money will come from the 15% transfer of sales and use taxes on motor vehicles from the general fund to Eyman’s congestion fund.

After you do an initial synchronization of traffic lights just how much money is needed each year to keep such a system operating? The state’s Office of Financial Management estimates some $65 million over 5 years would be spent.

The cost of opening carpool lanes is the most expensive, some $224 million over 5 years to install and modify variable speed limit and lane use control systems.

Just how many tow trucks are needed and what does this cost? The OFM estimates some $18 million over 5 years would be spent.

Some $312.9 million is left over for “other projects.”

After the initial cost of setting up this traffic gimmick proposal over 5 years, the money left over for “other projects” will continue year after year to accumulate in Eyman’s Traffic Congestion Fund.

The key point is that I-985 is really a Trojan Horse Initiative. Besides the above named items, the money removed from the State’s General Fund and deposited in Eyman’s special account can only be spent according to I-985 on “any other purpose which reduces traffic congestion by reducing vehicle delay by expanding road capacity and general purpose use to improve traffic flow for all vehicles”

The kicker is that I-985 says that “Purposes to improve traffic flow for all vehicles do not include creating, maintaining or operating bike paths or lanes, wildlife crossings, landscaping, park and ride lots, ferries, trolleys, buses, monorail, light rail or heavy rail.”

Yes this is the fine print on the back of the initiative most people never read before they signed the initiative. The ultimate result if I-985 passes will be to set up an ongoing fund committed to more road building. After the initial setup costs, the bulk of the collected money can only be spent on building more roads and not for transit or other projects that are proven to reduce congestion. Initiative 985 is an anti-transit proposal.

Increasing road capacity only puts more cars on the road, which when filled to the new capacity becomes congested. This is what other cities around the county have learned is the result of building more roads for more vehicles rather than spending the money on buses and public transit and park and ride lots.

I-985 is a failed approach to solving congestion problems. It deserves a resounding NO vote by Washington State voters.

An added note. Considering that the bulk of the money ultimately goes for road building, why did Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office not write the ballot title and summary to more accurately state what the majority of the money will be spent on over time? Why did they not mention that the money can not be used for things like transit or park and ride lots?

All in all the ballot title obscures the real impact of what the initiative does and does not accurately reflect the long term impact of the initiative.

You can read the ballot title and summary below:

Ballot Title Initiative Measure No. 985 concerns transportation.This measure would open high-occupancy vehicle lanes to all traffic during specified hours, require traffic light synchronization, increase roadside assistance funding, and dedicate certain taxes, fines, tolls and other revenues to traffic-flow purposes.
Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

Ballot Measure Summary This measure would: open high-occupancy vehicle lanes to all vehicles Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday nights from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., and 6:00 p.m. Friday to 6:00 a.m. Monday; require traffic light synchronization, and mandate increased funding for roadside assistance. Certain existing revenues, including 15% of state sales and use taxes on vehicles, certain traffic infraction penalties, and certain tolls would be dedicated to traffic-flow purposes.

You can read the text of the Initiative 985 by going to the Secretary of State’s website page on current initiatives.

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