The viaduct is Seattle's Katrina levee

Will the lessons of Katrina reso-nate with the voters when they vote on Initiative 912, which repeals the funding for the Alaskan Way Via-duct fix and other transportation safety improvements?

This year, Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature united to pass a historic plan to save lives, move people and deliver goods. It's the Transportation Partnership Act of 2005 - a 16-year investment package that will make our roads safer, improve our mobility and economy and protect our transportation structures before they crumble or fall.

Now the Initiative 912 Gridlock Gang wants to blow that plan apart with deception and anti-Puget Sound demagoguery. Will they succeed? Will the viaduct tumble down because there is no money to fix it? Will the 520 Bridge, or more than 130 other at-risk bridges in Washington, be fixed before lives are lost in a catastrophe? Will you spend more and more time eating fumes in nasty traffic jams and arriving late to meetings, childcare and work?

The answer to these questions depends on you - and on all of us who understand what is at stake. We face a transportation disaster unless we expose the Gridlock Gang's deceptions and set the record straight.

Here are facts people need to know:

* What would your pennies buy?

The largest investment is $2 billion for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which has a one-in-20 chance of falling down in the next earthquake. The viaduct is a crucial link in the Puget Sound's transportation system that carries 103,000 vehicles a day and serves as a major freight corridor. Other major King County projects include $500 million for the SR 520 Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, which also has a one-in-20 chance of sinking in the next earthquake. In addition, I-405 gets $972 million to relieve congestion.

Transit and HOV improvements on the I-90 corridor between Seattle and Bellevue are also funded, as are commute trip reduction efforts, passenger-only ferry service and pedestrian safety. There will also be numerous bridge-safety improvements. Cities and counties, too, will get a share of revenues to fix potholes and other problems.

* How much is the gas tax increase?

A 9.5-cent increase is gently phased in: only 3 cents this year, 3 cents in July 2006, 2 cents in July 2007 and 1.5 cents in 2008. To keep this in perspective, consider that this year's increase will cost a typical driver only $1.33 per month. Even in 2008, a typi-cal driver will pay only $4.33 a month, about the cost of a latte. This pales in comparison with recent gas price hikes raked in by big oil companies for profit, and with the gas tax we get real transportation improvements.

* Would this be the highest transportation tax in the country?

No. It places us about eighth in the nation for gas taxes.

* Is the Monorail covered by the transportation package?


* If Initiative 912 passes, what will happen to all the transportation projects?

Most projects will be immediately halted. In all likelihood, the Legis-lature will be unwilling to pass a major transportation package for many years. The economic, environmental and livability costs will be significant.

* Is the Puget Sound getting more than its fair share?

Talk radio has spread this deception. In fact, when all trans-portation revenues and expenditures are compared for the next 16 years, the Puget Sound region raises the same amount as it receives in projects. For a long time now we've been a region that has given its gas tax dollars to the rest of the state. This plan brings balance for 16 years.

* What can you do to defeat the Gridlock Gang?

Start spreading the truth to your neighbors, friends and relatives in Washington. Copy this op-ed. Talk to groups you're associated with, and pass the word about how important it is get out the No vote on I-912. Don't let the Gridlock Gang ruin our chances to fix the viaduct and other transportation safety problems. If the initiative passes, we can expect to eat traffic jam fumes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Mary Lou Dickerson represents the 36th Legislative District in the state legislature in Olympia.

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