While elected officials consider billions of dollars in new taxes, the people of Washington state say the top priority should be to maintain the highways, bridges, transit and ferries that we already have, a survey says.
The Voice of Washington Survey found that 60 percent were willing to pay higher taxes, compared with 51 percent in 2012. But the number is likely skewed upward by a rewording in this year’s question that added the phrase, “for those transportation elements you feel are important.” When asked about 12 such elements, the top three were maintaining roads and bridges; operating and maintaining ferries; and expanding public transit service.
The Washington State Transportation Commission on Friday released the survey, to which 5,673 people responded in close to an even split among city, suburban and rural residents. Though not using a random sample, the agency recruits a diverse group, and the survey panel was twice as big as last year, said Reema Griffith, executive director.
As for priorities, maintenance nosed out safety, capacity, new options and environmental protection when people were asked to compare goals.
But maintenance has been secondary in political packages. Elected officials here and in other states tend to spread exciting, ribbon-cutting projects to their districts, while listening to wish lists from freight, road building, business and in some years from green-transportation groups.
The latest $12.3 billion plan from Senate Republicans allocated only $1 billion to highway maintenance, and House Democrats this past spring suggested even less. Neither the two parties nor the state Department of Transportation has proffered a proposal to replace and re-deck 60-year-old Interstate 5 through Seattle, since 2008.
Only 20 percent of respondents rated Washington’s transportation system above average, a 6-point drop since 2012.
Full survey results can be found at this link.
These surveys inform a small part of the decision-making by state officials, staff and legislators. To that effect, the commission’s webpage headline Friday was, “Majority of citizens willing to pay more for transportation.”