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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 3, 2013 at 7:02 AM

I-5 bridge collapse

Refocus spending

Finally, a jolt of reality in the realm of Washington state transportation [“Bill would restrict permits on oversized trucks,” NWFriday, May 31]. The demise of a span of the I-5 Skagit River bridge has focused attention on aging infrastructure. As a civil engineer, it has been clear to me for quite some time that maintenance, repair and upgrades to infrastructure are not sexy, and few politicians and government policymakers have the fortitude to fight for basic infrastructure needs. One has only to rattle down the numerous arterials in Seattle to see that the sexier striping for bikes is the only “improvement” these roads have seen in years.

Hopefully, the Skagit River bridge collapse will refocus spending to address the obvious. Mobility for freight and people is vital to our economy. The price tag to replace the destroyed span has been pegged at $15 million. That is peanuts compared with the $2.1 to $2.9 billion spent on Sound Transit’s Central Link Light Rail (Tukwila to Westlake Center), including a $500 million federal grant, or $150 million per mile at the lower end of the scale. What did that investment purchase? In the first quarter of 2013, the weekday average ridership on Sound Transit’s Central Link Light Rail was 25,606. Compare that with the more than 70,000 daily trips across the Skagit River bridge stated in news reports, and those are not necessarily single-occupancy vehicles.

The bridge collapse is a reality check that we need to fix our infrastructure. Forget sexy; focus on moving vehicles safely and efficiently (There is even an environmental benefit to such thinking, but that’s another story). Focus on the economy served by these vehicles. Think about the impacts to business when sexy (mass transit and bikes, for instance) blinds policy, design and transportation-spending strategies. It’s time to wake up.

Susan Gardner, Kenmore

Raise gas tax

After the Skagit River I-5 collapse, is there any reason not to raise the gas tax? For crying out loud, let’s get on with it. Shame on the Legislature for dithering.

At my local gas station, the price per gallon has cycled up and down by 30 cents a couple of times in the past 90 days. Any legislative increase would be lost in the “noise” of the market-force changes, meaning any tax increase would essentially be invisible.

Let’s be brave and talk about an increase that will really produce results — not 2 cents per year for five years, but 5 cents per year for four years.

I would happily pay for it, happily vote for those who support it and happily campaign against those who don’t.

Clark Douglas, Mount Vernon

 

Comments | Topics: bridge, collapse, I-5

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