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May 21, 2013 at 6:03 PM

Washington’s roads, transit rate a D+, engineers say

Washington state road and transit systems deserves a D+ grade, and overall infrastructure a C, says a report issued Tuesday by the Seattle chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The good news is that “Washington state has got a very good track record in safety, in both road and transit systems,” said Shane Binder, one of 15 co-authors. The state’s goal of zero road deaths by 2030 is attainable, he said.  Road deaths declined from 633 in 2006 to 424 in 2011, a 28 percent drop, federal statistics show.

But the ASCE scored the state low because of its tenuous funding systems.  Pierce Transit and Community Transit have cut service, while King County Metro begs for new taxing authority to replace expiring sources and to grow with demand. On the other hand, Sound Transit is moving forward with most of its $18 billion expansion, including three rail lines, which voters approved in 2008.

Laura Ruppert, co-chair of the report-card committee, called the C score mediocre.

The group said Washington state highways are average, but city and rural streets are worse and drag the score down.

Meanwhile, the Legislature is considering a gas-tax hike of up to 10 cents a gallon along with other fees to fuel an $8.4 billion program — mostly highway expansions. Only $900 million is earmarked for maintenance and preservation. The plan has been blasted by retired WashDOT Secretary Doug MacDonald. Among other problems, it puts off a full redecking of Interstate 5 to some future round of tolls or taxes.

The Seattle ASCE’s report suggests gas taxes that keep pace with inflation, along with public-private partnerships that might save money. But the group wouldn’t judge OIympia’s 2013 package, when asked Tuesday. “We’d like to see a good balance between maintenance of projects, and new projects,” said Larry Costich, legislative correspondent for Seattle ASCE.

Washington’s scores by category were: aviation C, bridges C-, dams B, drinking water C-, rail C-, roads D+, schools C, hazardous waste C, and transit D+.

Seattle ACSE issued the report to mark its 100th anniversary. In March, the national ASCE declared U.S. infrastructure a D+ and in need of $3.6 trillion investment by 2020, to help the U.S. economy stay competitive.

Comments | Topics: American Society of Civil Engineers, roads, transit

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