Initiative 745 is just plain common sense
June 12, 2008 · Updated 10:11 AM
"In probably no other world but politics would anyone even bother to dispute the simple idea that building more roads is the logical solution to the growing problem of traffic congestion.But it is precisely this seemingly common-sense proposition that forms the basis for Initiative 745. And apparently there are those who still can't seem to grasp it.The measure is one of two on the November ballot masterminded by Tim Eyman, the Mukilteo businessman who authored the wildly popular (except with those in the public sector) Initiative 695. And like its sister, which seeks to roll back rate and fare increases enacted in between the date 695 was conceived and later became law, I-745 is a corollary to the earlier initiative - one that wouldn't even be necessary if our so-called public servants could expend half as much energy living up to the expressed will of the voters as they do resisting it.Where I-695 attacked the size and scope of state government by llimiting one of its more notorious sources of revenue - motor vehicle excise taxes - Initiative 745 takes a more direct route by requiring that 90 percent of all transportation funds be spent to construct roads, rather than eaving it to whatever else the politicians and bureaucrats can find to squander it on.If you're a rational person, you might have assumed the hard-earned money you spend to license your car and pay gasoline taxes would already be spent almost exclusively to make sure the roads on which your car is driven are safe and well-maintained, and that enough roads are built to prevent gridlock. But rational thought seldom characterizes these decisions, which explains why only 47 miles of new roads have been built statewide in the past 14 years. Not surprisingly, Washington's roads have recently been named the nation's most congested, and the problem gets worse by the day.Instead of concentrating on road construction, the state has spent vast sums promoting and subsidizing alternative modes of travel that Washington commuters, mavericks that they are, simply will not embrace in meaningful numbers. Studies show that about 95 percent of all transportation trips within the state are made via automobile. Everything else, including buses, accounts for only about 5 percent. And yet we're spending only 70 percent of our transportation dollars on roads and 30 percent on the alternatives.Another key element of the initiative is its requirement that every state and local transportation agency - including the Department of Transportation, the ferry system, the transit agencies and Sound Transit's light rail system - be subject to performance audits. Again, since these are public agencies funded at least in part by public dollars, you'd probably think such audits were already a matter of course. But you'd be wrong.Mostly what we like about I-745 is that it doesn't try to dictate behavior to us. Rather than wagging a finger and telling us how naughty we are to drive our own cars instead of flocking to mass transit, Eyman's new initiative simply reflects reality. It makes the assumption we know what we want without waiting for the braintrust in Olympia tell us - and it appropriates resources based on the way we actually do live rather than how some consultant with a $75 haircut says we ought to. Next thing you know, we'll get the idea these people work for us instead of the other way around - and who knows where that kind of radical thinking can lead. "