For those not in the know, Washington StateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s I-912 is a CitizenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Initiative brought into being when the citizens rejected the stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s attempt to seize more money via special legislation that inflicted the people of Washington with a series of gas tax increases spread out over four years totaling 9.5 cents per gallon of fuel. 912 would repeal those taxes and the state government, the county government and a number of other special interest groups (who are all just interested in getting their hands on this tax money) oppose it.
Washington is currently the on the tail end of the Top 5 highest gas taxed states list, but we are below the halfway mark in terms of states that actually see a return of our money in improvements. This fact puts us consistently in the Top 5 worst cities for traffic and the only things the state and county can come up with are expensive fantasy schemes of mass transit to waste our tax money on.
We have been held in limbo by wannabe social engineers who want the Seattle Metro area to be more like any Euro city with assloads of trains you care to name while traffic just gets worse and worse.
45% of our transportation money goes to fund mass transit, even though less that 8% of the citizens utilize it. This election cycle has even seen Democrat County Executive Candidates brag that they refuse to build more lane capacity and feel no fault in flat out telling voters that they would rather waste the transportation money on faulty bus routes and inflexible train schedules than make the commute easier.
That is how screwed up this place is.
If you havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t read my previous post on Initiative 912, I suggest you do so now because what will follow are updates to that. While the updates are entertaining, you might need some background to get the full giggle/smash something effect.
One of the things the state has said they would spend the new tax money on are improvements to rock slide precautions on the stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s major mountain pass, Interstate 90. As is usual with mountain passes, portions of I-90 are carved out of granite rock faces, which have a tendency to break up and fall down on the road surface when they fill with water and that water freezes.
Coincidentally, a moderate rockslide happened just this last weekend, blocking a lane in either direction of I-90. This has caused both directions of the pass to be shut down for a number of days. Why they have to shut down a four to five lane interstate while they clean this up, even after they have installed semi permanent retainers is beyond me, but they have done so. Also coincidentally, they plan on having the clean up finished in the middle of the day today, which just happens to be Election Day.
When the slide occurred, the word went out from the opponents to 912 that these improvements were included in the gas tax legislation.
What the pro-tax people failed to mention was that the improvements werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t scheduled to take place until 2011.
After that point was brought up, Barely-Governor Gregoire held a press conference stating that the timeline for the improvements had been moved up to next year.
Now, some folks are calling this set of circumstances much too coincidental and are going into conspiracy mode. I am not one of those. I believe that our highways and byways are just in such crappy shape due to mismanagement and the waste of transportation funds that things of this nature are bound to happen at the worst (or best, depending on your point of view) time possible.
What I do consider coincidental is this anecdotal tale of manufactured traffic congestion: There is a major thoroughfare that runs east/west through the city of Seattle called Stewart Street. Normally, the lights are timed well enough that to go the dozen or so blocks from the waterfront to I-5 takes but a few minutes.
However, my drivers are telling me that that quick trip is now a 15-20 minute ordeal and has only been that way for the last week to week-and-a-half.
They are also mentioning a couple of other well known Ã¢â‚¬Ëœquick routesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ through downtown that connect to and from the interstate that have become clusterfucks during the same timeframe.
They are taking solace in that the election is today and that means theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll probably all be back to normal by next week.
One other thing that has become an issue in this election are a set of signs that mysteriously appeared shortly after 912 made it onto the ballot.
The state DOT spent $19,000 of taxpayer funds on a dozens of signs that say Ã¢â‚¬Å“Your Department of Transportation. Making Every Dollar CountÃ¢â‚¬?
They first appeared in construction zones along the interstates a few days after 912 was confirmed to be on the ballot, but the DOT apparently either ran out of construction zones or ordered too many signs (or both) because now theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re just about everywhere along the interstate highways.
So there you have an update to the I-912 fiasco. Hopefully tomorrow IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be able to tell you it passed. If it didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll lay down $20 right now that the difference was in King County.
And we all know what happens to things that government doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like when King County gets to decide them.