Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Walla Walla Highway 12 Transportation Award
February 13, 2004
Thank you for very much for this kind recognition. I appreciate all the great work the Highway 12 Coalition has done for Southeast Washington. Your expertise and commitment on transportation issues makes this award even more special.
I accept this award on behalf of everyone who worked so hard to make Washington’s first comprehensive transportation improved funding plan in over 12 years a reality! I am proud of the transportation plan we enacted. And we are beginning to see the results across our state.
The Highway 12 corridor highlights several of the priorities behind the 2003 transportation improvement plan.
Improving highway safety was a top priority of our transportation plan. And like many other highways in the state, US 12 is long overdue for traffic safety improvements. In fact, this is among the most deadly roads in our state. Since 1991, this stretch of highway has experienced some 1,100 accidents, including 414 with injuries and 30 fatalities.
The "nickel plan," as it is sometimes called, funded the highest priority safety projects across the state. This project, along with SR 270 (the Pullman to Moscow highway), was among the top projects on that list.
Investments in safety projects like this one reduce accident and fatality rates. The Washington State Department of Transportation just completed a study of the accident data for the top safety projects across the state. That study revealed that accident and fatality rates dropped an average of almost 40 percent after the projects were completed. Lives are saved, and injuries are reduced, along with medical and property costs.
Phases two through five and six are expected to be funded with federal dollars, except President Bush wants to veto the federal highway budget, saying we can’t afford it. But it uses the federal gas tax, which can only be sued for transportation improvements. We should instead repeal tax cuts for the wealthy.
LOCAL CONGESTION RELIEF
With most transportation projects, solving one problem can help solve another. By expanding US 12 to a divided 4-lane highway, we improve safety and we help cut local traffic congestion. Up to a third of the 13,000 vehicles that travel US 12 per day are big, heavy trucks.
Of course, the merging of trucks with other passenger vehicles often leads to bottlenecks and chokepoints. The various phases of the US 12 project will take great steps to alleviate this. That's good news for truck drivers and commuters alike.
The Highway 12 project is clearly an investment in safety and convenience. And given the growing volume of truck traffic, this project will also generate great dividends in the free flow of commerce.
Rural economic development is crucial to all parts of our state. Eliminating barriers to freight mobility along the US 12 corridor will help existing businesses grow and attract new employers to the area. And that means more jobs for Walla Walla County.
The leadership of this coalition was crucial. Working together, you put the highway 12 corridor on the right course. There are few things we can do that will provide greater benefit to the economic health and safety of Southeast Washington residents. I am very proud to be a part of the Highway 12 solution. Thank you.
# # #