Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Bellevue Chamber of Commerce / Bellevue Downtown Association
March 5, 2001
Thank you Connie (Grant, chair of the Chamber) for your kind introduction, and thanks to the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and the Bellevue Downtown Association for inviting me here to speak today.
I'm very glad to see you all, in more ways than one.
We are lucky to all be together today and I hope all is well with your families and your homes.
We're also lucky to be here in another way. Most roads were in good enough shape for all of us to get here. Something we used to take for granted.
That was one close call we had last Wednesday. And nothing could draw our attention more dramatically to the need for a safe, modern and well-maintained transportation system that offers alternate routes to get from point A to point B.
Imagine where we'd be today if 405 was cracked down the middle at about 8th Avenue, or a couple of miles of I-5 had crumbled right around the Mercer exit.
We still must look forward, but we do it now with a different set of eyes. We know more than we did last Wednesday. Let's put what we've learned to good use.
There may be not be a more sobering, appropriate time to really evaluate what we mean when we talk about a transportation system that gets our employees to work and our goods to market on time.
There is no better time than now to look hard at our other needs as well. Now is the time to decide we will not take our future for granted.
We must have a reliable, reasonably priced supply of electricity and natural gas to accommodate growth.
And we must have enough water to serve the needs of our growing human population and our environment.
If a few dams had cracked or broken on Wednesday, if a few water storage facilities had been compromised, would we have adequate reserves?
We're approaching a drought. Could we have handled a lot of earthquake damage to our water supply facilities?
Now is the time to act.
It's a tall order, but with leadership in Olympia and with support from innovative civic leaders like you, we can do it. We must!
Ladies and Gentlemen: The earthquake certainly didn't cause our transportation problems, but it did hold them up to a magnifying glass. The 6.8 we just experienced drives home the message we must all heed: Without significant improvements to our transportation system, we cannot sustain or grow the economy we've created. We can't even get to the City of Snoqualmie today by the most direct route.
Last Wednesday's quake ought to shake us all into action!!!!!
Our preliminary estimate of damage to our state transportation system is close to $100 million -- just for the state transportation system, highways, bridges and ferry system terminals. The damage done to county and city transportation facilities is still being assessed, but will add much, much more to that total.
Of course, those are just the costs of repairing the infrastructure -- not the economic impact to businesses and employees.
Be it from earthquake, an errant barge on Lake Washington, or the chronic traffic congestion we face virtually every commute, our saturated transportation system leaves our economy, our jobs, and our quality of life quite vulnerable.
Losing portions of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, or the 520 bridge -- as we experienced last summer -- these are critical transportation arteries from which flow the lifeblood of our economy.
Washington suffers some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation, resulting in $2 billion dollars a year in lost productivity.
At the same time that we've experienced such huge growth in population, jobs, and vehicle traffic, we now have less state revenues for transportation than we did 10 years ago.
Taking action on transportation is about saving our economy... saving our jobs. And if you're stuck in traffic, it's about saving your time and sanity.
Instead of hopping from one foot to the other, don't you think it's high time to leap ahead?
I plan to keep the Legislature in Olympia this year until we get a transportation package that serves commuters, businesses, and shippers.
Our plan of action is straightforward.
First, we will reform our existing transportation system to make it work better, faster, and at lower cost.
And, while progress in the Legislature is always slow, I think we'll get there.
The House and Senate transportation committees are very close to clearing a cluster of reform bills, including:
Design-build contracting and
Common sense preservation and maintenance techniques.
These should pass both chambers quickly.
Second, we must agree on the investments that will best meet our top transportation needs -- top priority projects that will be started, constructed, and completed within the next six years.
On the Eastside, we know this list includes these priorities:
I-90 lane reconfiguration (called R-8A)
Providing essential transit services for those with special needs (disabled, very low income, seniors, etc.)
HOV completion on SR-167
And yes, of course, we've got to complete the 405 and Translake studies as quickly as possible so we can finally make the sorely-needed improvements to those two critical corridors.
The third and final step in this three-stage process is figuring out how to pay for all these additional investments.
When it comes to the multi-billion dollar 405 and 520 projects, I believe we must establish a partnership with the region -- state and federal dollars alone will not be able to cover the more than $8 billion price tag for these two.
We need to empower the region to partner with the state on key projects.
Remember: None of these crucial investments will happen unless we work together to have the Legislature act. We need the help of business and civic leaders or it just won't happen.
Remember: this is about saving our economy and saving our jobs.
It's also about preserving our Northwest lifestyle. We don't want to become another L.A.
Energy and Water
Just as we must make the wisest and most efficient use of our transportation dollars, we must do the same with energy and water.
For decades, we in the Northwest were fortunate. We had a relatively cheap supply of electricity and a plentiful supply of water. But that's changing, and this year, that reality is abundantly clear.
Your homes and businesses must save electricity and water beginning now and through the fall.
The first thing to keep in mind is that energy and water are linked here in the Northwest like no other place in the United States.
In fact, nearly 80 percent of the state's energy supply comes from hydroelectric generation -- dams with turbines powered by water. This is about ten times the national average.
The more we conserve electricity now, the more water we leave behind our dams to generate power later on and to help save our wild salmon.
We must make better and wiser use of electricity and of water in our homes and businesses. Conservation is our best single weapon in the short term as we look for ways to stabilize and increase the supply of energy and water.
Hand-in-hand with conservation is the need for increased generation of electricity. And we are already doing it.
I'm proud to let you know that tomorrow I'll announce plans for projects to put more than 1,500 megawatts -- enough to power a city the size of Seattle -- online over the next 18 months with some coming online immediately. 300 of those megawatts are coming from FPL's wind farm on the Washington/Oregon border by the end of the year. It's renewable power that can now compete with the price of fossil fuels. Things are changing!!
I'm working very closely with Avista Corp., Tractebel Power, British Petroleum, B.P.A., Goldendale Aluminum, ALCOA Aluminum and others to not only generate new power for the region, but to make companies more energy self-sufficient.
And we're doing this while using the cleanest burning, state of the art equipment.
But even as we generate new supplies of electricity, we watch our water supply dwindle.
I have to tell you, this spring and summer will be rough. Not just in terms of electricity but in terms of water for human consumption, irrigation, and salmon recovery.
We are in near-drought conditions, with rainfall and snowpack running at 50 to 60 percent of normal. You've seen the pictures on TV and in the newspapers of some of our reservoirs, which show muddy, stump-filled bottoms where we've always seen water. In fact, we're at 30 percent of normal capacity in seven of our reservoir systems. Columbia River salmon need water to send juvenile fish downstream to the ocean.
This brings me back to our situation with electricity.
Remember, when we save electricity, we save water, and when we save water, we increase capacity for future electricity generation and for fish. The elements are directly related. One effects the other.
The Legislature and I are working on a package of legislation to do three things:
Provide incentives -- financial and regulatory -- to encourage more electrical generation
Provide incentives for energy conservation and efficiency.
And provide financial help to seniors and low-income citizens suffering from high energy bills.
I also have issued an energy supply alert making it possible for companies and utilities to cut red tape and generate more power from temporary generators or new, efficient gas turbines.
We have made sure this generation will occur with no additional damage to the environment.
Until new generation comes on line, our best bet is wise use of water and energy.
I'm looking to the business community to help us set an example.
So far, my order that state government cut energy use by 10 percent has exceeded expectations. In January, state government cut electricity usage by nearly 11 percent from the previous January. Natural gas use dropped by 15-and-a-half percent.
I hope to see the same kind of performance from the business community and citizens in general.
We need citizens and businesses to help us strengthen three basic building blocks to a strong economy:
A good transportation system.
A reliable, affordable supply of energy
And enough water to take care of all our needs while protecting our environment.
With your help, we can do it. We must!!