It’s been 10 years since Washington state last made a significant investment in transportation. Poor road conditions and escalating congestion are salient proof that we must do better.
This legislative session, lawmakers have the opportunity to address the pressing need to invest in mobility. Like education, transportation serves a vital role in a state’s success. Everyone depends on it.
Not making the investment in transportation has significant costs. According the American Society of Civil Engineers, drivers and businesses lose 32.5 million hours a year to travel delays —an estimated $1.1 billion annual loss. If Washington state does nothing, sixty percent of state highway pavement will be “poor” condition or worse by 2026. Deteriorating and unsafe state roads and bridges would translate to higher costs, more crashes, and worsening bottlenecks. Every person in the state will be affected.
At a time when our state population is poised to grow close to thirty percent in the next 10 years, an investment in transportation has left the realm of the should. It is now a must. The state Senate is poised to take action.
Washington companies are changing how we travel, protect human health and preserve the environment. The strength and breadth of that vitality depends on a strong higher education system and a skilled workforce. In an opinion piece for this week’s Puget Sound Business Journal, Steve Mullin urges lawmakers to keep higher education a priority. He writes, “A strong higher education system is the most powerful tool Washington has to ensure students get those much needed skills and to spread opportunity and shared prosperity.”
Washington’s award-winning universities and programs are hub of innovation and opportunity. But we can do better. Our state ranks 38th out of 50 in bachelor’s degrees awarded per capita. Precariously close to the bottom. Our goal is to be top 10. That’s how we prepare Washington students for great opportunities and foster a workforce that succeeds in the 21st century.
We have work to do. In 2013, twenty-five thousand jobs, concentrated in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), went unfilled because employers couldn’t find qualified candidates. That number is expected to double by 2017.
“Closing the skills gap and preparing Washington students for great opportunities requires our state to do more to protect, support and promote higher education,” said Mullin.
Read the full opinion
Washington Roundtable President Steve Mullin applauded Senate transportation leaders this afternoon for a new bipartisan proposal that invests $15 billion in the state’s transportation system over 16 years.
“We applaud Senators Curtis King, Steve Hobbs, Joe Fain and Marko Liias for their work in developing this package. This is a serious proposal with bipartisan support and we are very encouraged by the positive momentum it creates in favor of new state transportation investment,” Mullin said.
Mullin added, “It has been a decade since Washington last made a significant new investment in its transportation system and our roads and bridges are showing increasing signs of neglect. The legislature must take action this session to invest in preserving and maintaining state road and bridge networks and improve key economic corridors. This proposal is the first step in that process. We urge the Senate Transportation Committee to give it thoughtful consideration and take action quickly.”
For more on the Roundtable’s priorities for transportation policy, download our 2015 Policy Agenda. The Roundtable also commissioned The Boston Consulting Group last fall to assess the economic impact of investment in preservation and maintenance of the state’s transportation system as well as six major improvement projects in key economic corridors. Download that analysis here. It confirms that new investment will have wide ranging economic benefits for the entire state. Alternatively, a lack of new investment will result in significant road and bridge deterioration, millions more hours of congestion and higher costs for drivers.
“The data is clear. Taking better care of the transportation system we have and improving key corridors will drive economic growth and improve quality of life. Now is the time to act,” Mullin said.
As The Seattle Times editorializes today, transportation negotiations are underway in the legislature and the need for a new comprehensive investment package – the first in a decade – is clear. As the Times writes:
At this point, lawmakers should not need to be reminded why a package is needed. But just in case, smart investments are necessary because poor freight mobility remains a threat to the region’s trade-dependent economy; without new revenue dedicated to maintenance, 60 percent of roads will fall into the category of “poor or very poor” in the next decade, jeopardizing safety; and worsening congestion in the Puget Sound region is a soul-sucking hell.
Let’s say that again, because it’s important, 60 percent of roads in poor condition or worse if Washington doesn’t take action on new transportation investment. That’s not a problem for some of us, it’s a problem in every part of the state. Research conducted by The Boston Consulting Group just last fall outlines the consequences of inaction:
If Washington doesn’t increase its investment in the preservation and maintenance of roads and bridges and make improvements in key economic corridors, by 2026:
- Overall congestion statewide will rise to 109 million hours per year, costing drivers $940 annually.
- Sixty percent of state highway pavement will be rated in “poor” condition or worse, costing drivers $1,040 per year in vehicle maintenance costs.
- Forty percent of bridges will be functionally obsolete or structurally deficient.
- Preservation and maintenance of existing highways will be nine times more expensive, escalating to $2.7 million per mile.
- Trade volumes at the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma will be flat or declining.
That’s the risk. The reward is equally great. In fact, a $7 billion investment would generate a $42 billion return over 30 years. That’s a six-fold return. Here’s a look at the ROI:
Better roads. Better bridges. More economic growth. It’s time for action to get Washington moving.