Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Puget Sound Regional Council
March 29, 2001
Good evening. Thank you very much Bob (Edwards) for that kind introduction, and for the invitation to join you today.
It's great to be here at the Meydenbauer Center, on the east side of Lake Washington. With so many of you from the west side of Lake Washington, traffic must have been a nightmare.
Mark Twain once said if the world were to come to an end, that he'd rather be in Cincinnati, because Cincinnati's always two years behind the times. With the Legislature in town, I'm beginning to feel that way about Olympia.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I've spent a lot of time in the past three weeks talking about the misfortunes recently visited on our state, from the earthquake to the Boeing announcement, all on top of the drought and energy crisis.
Tonight, I want to talk about something cheerful. And that something is the prospect that the Legislature this year will finally do what needs to be done to get our state moving again.
In this year of misfortune, let us be optimistic. Let us believe that the Legislature will not add to our list of misfortunes another failed attempt to fix our transportation system.
You know, there is an awful lot of speculation about why Boeing has chosen to move its headquarters -- and a fair amount of silly finger-pointing too. But there is one thing we all know for sure about Boeing. And it's that for years Boeing it has been one of the loudest voices for a state transportation system that gets goods and people to market and to work on time.
Boeing made no secret about its opposition to Initiative 695, saying it would devastate the transportation system. And Boeing played a leading role on the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation's recommendations to improve our system with significant tax increases to pay for it! Boeing said a bad transportation system is bad for business - Boeing's and everybody else's.
Here's an example. Boeing manufactures fans in Eastern Washington for its aircraft assembled in Renton and Everett. When I-90 is closed at Snoqualmie Pass due to weather and related traffic congestion, Boeing loses a lot of money.
Those of you here this evening know better than anybody that transportation is the circulatory system through which the very lifeblood of our economy flows. Without a healthy, robust transportation system, produce and goods don't get to market on time, commuters sit in traffic, and our state -- as one connected economic body -- ceases to function.
Transportation is about saving and growing hard-won jobs. It's about sustaining the quality of life we treasure in Washington. And if you're sitting in traffic, it's about saving your sanity.
Washington suffers some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation, resulting in $2 billion dollars a year in lost productivity. And, as you well know, most of that loss comes from your constituents right here in central Puget Sound.
As "Destination 2030" -- your 30 year planning document -- points out, the Puget Sound region will face continued growth in traffic - about 60 percent more-over the next 30 years.
Today we have about 10 million daily trips throughout the central Puget Sound, and by 2030 we'll have 16 million daily trips.
And let me congratulate you on the tremendous effort that "Destination 2030" represents. You produced a long-term, strategic transportation plan that truly complements and dovetails with the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission. And you did so the old-fashioned way: one city, one chamber, and one community interest at a time.
I'd like to share with you a recipe for utter gridlock. First, take huge growth in the economy, jobs and population; then add a 20-year explosion in vehicle traffic; and at the same time, cut state transportation revenues to a level lower than they were 10 years ago.
Not only is that a recipe for gridlock, but also system-wide deterioration, lost jobs, and growing public frustration and cynicism.
For many of you, I know I'm preaching to the choir. So what do we intend to do about it?
The answer is we have a straightforward strategy to turn our transportation system around to get Washington moving again. And I intend 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 must reform our existing transportation system to make it work better, faster and at lower cost. And, while I am frustrated at the Legislature's pace, I think we'll get there. While I have yet to see any of these bills reach my desk, the Legislature is close to approving close to a dozen key reforms from the Blue Ribbon Commission, including permit streamlining, design-build contracting, and common sense preservation and maintenance techniques.
Second, we must agree on the investments that will best meet our top transportation needs -- top priority investments that will be started, constructed, and for most completed within the next six years. This list includes these central Puget Sound priorities:
The SR 509 connection with I-5 south of the SeaTac Airport;
The HOV system, from Everett to Lakewood (on I-5, I-405, I-90, SR-167, SR-520, and SR-16);
Improving SR-2, including the SR-2/SR-522 bypass at Monroe;
Freight mobility projects throughout the region, like SR 519 at Royal Brougham;
Construction of four new Washington State Ferries, to replace the pre-Depression era steel electric class vessels; and construction of two new multi-modal terminals;
Support for essential transit services for the elderly, disabled, and others in our society who are most vulnerable.
And, as soon as preferred alternatives have been determined:
I-90 lane reconfiguration across Mercer Island (hopefully under "R-8A", completed within six-years);
Finally moving forward on the Alaskan Way Viaduct; and yes
I-405 and SR-520.
Because of their size and magnitude, many of these projects (like I-405 and SR-520) cannot be shouldered by the state alone. The region must be empowered to partner with the state and federal governments, bringing to the table locally raised revenues and direct user fees.
Regional empowerment is crucial, because at over $7 billion for I-405 alone, we are kidding ourselves to think that state and federal sources can-or should-shoulder the entire burden.
While there are several competing concepts for how best to structure a regional transportation program, we should agree on these key principles:
The governance structure must be as lean as possible and be flexible enough to work in Spokane, Vancouver or Bellingham, as well as central Puget Sound.
The revenue must be tied to specific projects/investments, and should end once the project is paid for; and if financed by bonds, then once the debt has been retired.
Funding should be dedicated to top regional corridors. Just as with the state, we must not "peanut-butter" these investments across the region with small disconnected projects that won't make a difference. And of course, any regional transportation authority cannot substitute for a strong statewide transportation system.
The third and final step in this three-stage process is agreeing on how best to fund these additional transportation improvements. As I stated in my State of the State address, this is not about putting a pile of cash on the table, and then deciding how to spend it. We must do this in the appropriate order.
Whether new revenue is approved in Olympia or on the state ballot, I believe the final investment plan should meet the Blue Ribbon Commission's test that at least 85% of all new statewide revenues raised within a region must stay within that region.
As you all know, none of these crucial steps will happen unless we continue to press the Legislature to act. We need the help of business and civic leaders or it just won't happen. This is about saving our economy and saving our jobs.
So let's create some good news this year for the people of Washington state.
Let's finally work together to create a transportation system that works for the people of our great state.
Thank you all very much.