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Mayor's Viewpoint

Op-Ed Renton Reporter
Mayor Denis Law
March 20, 2015

State Legislature must take action to ease congestion through Renton

In the next six weeks, we will learn whether our Washington State Legislature chooses to act—or dissolves into inaction—on the growing traffic congestion and gridlock that is paralyzing our highways and freeways and jeopardizing our state’s economy and our quality of life. We are urging action.

One Senator who spoke on the Senate Floor a couple of weeks ago translated the transportation issue into terms we can easily relate to here in Renton: “Traffic sucks.”

That’s no revelation to any of us who attempt to navigate the virtual parking lot of 405 in the mornings, or evenings, or just about any time of the day. What’s most sobering is that in its 2014 “Congestion Report,” the Washington State Department of Transportation released data showing us that the gridlock and brake-tapping we’ve been stewing in for years has gotten significantly worse.

In 2011, if you wanted to ensure your 13-mile, I-405 trip from Tukwila through Renton and into Bellevue was “reliably” on time, you needed to give yourself 40 minutes. If that sounds far too long, brace yourself: that same “reliable” trip measurement in 2014 was 50 minutes. What’s worse, the same report indicated that because of congestion there is a 58 percent reduction in the flow of traffic on 405 through Renton, and these congestion points and delays could extend up to 12 ½ miles. That’s a frustrating mix of lost productivity, lost family time, increased air pollution, and increased stress.

It is time for all of us to rise up and say, “Enough!” While we can’t wave a magic wand and make traffic go away, we can and must invest in transportation infrastructure that enhances mobility and safety, protects our economy and our job base, and preserves the quality of life we cherish.

In Olympia, the Washington State Senate has approved a 2015 transportation revenue-and-reform package that makes some critical down-payments on the worst of our transportation problems here in Renton and throughout King County and the State of Washington.

The Senate’s package would invest $1.24 billion to allow the WSDOT to rebuild the state’s most congested interchange (Interstate 405/State Route 167) and to add a lane each direction to the state’s most congested freeway segment (405 between Renton and Bellevue).

The Senate’s package also provides direct funding, grant funding, and local financing options for cities and counties to attack the mobility and maintenance backlogs on our local roadways.

There’s still a long way to go to make this 2015 transportation package a reality. The House of Representatives needs to consider the package and put its own stamp on it, and while we believe the Senate’s work represents a great start, we still want to ensure that the 405 investments, in the final package, are as front-loaded as possible to enable us to “finish the worst first.”

But at this point, we can’t afford any more delay—we already get plenty of that on our roadways every single day. Instead, we need investments that serve manufacturing hubs like Boeing-Renton, move our workers to and from their aerospace supply and high-tech jobs, and allow our freight haulers and transit drivers to make on-time deliveries of goods and people.

We are truly at a crossroads with a transportation system that is our lifeblood. Our choice is to allow it to get worse, or take action and improve transportation networks for the good of our manufacturers, our industrial cluster, our ports, and our people and their families.

The House Transportation Committee will be taking the next step in the state legislative process on March 26, when it holds a hearing on the transportation package. We ask that you help us with a simple message to House Members, and to Senators and all state legislators: “Let’s get this done!”