Viaduct is Seattle's Katrina levee

Will the lessons of Hurricane Katrina resonate with Seattle citizens when they vote on Initiative 912, which repeals the funding for the Alaskan Way Viaduct 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, as I call them, wants to blow that plan apart with a combination of 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 sucking 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:

The largest investment in the initiative is the $2 billion package for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which as it now stands 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 also are 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.

A 9.5-cent gas-tax increase would gently be 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 typical driver will pay only $4.33 a month, about the cost of a latte. This pales in comparison with recent 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.

Another concern is whether the monorail is covered by the transportation package. The answer is no.

If Initiative 912 passes, most transportation projects will be immediately halted. In all likelihood, the Legislature will be unwilling to pass a major transportation package for many years. The economic, environmental and livability costs will be significant.

Talk radio has spread the deception that Puget Sound is getting more than its fair share of funding. In fact, when all transportation 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 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.

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 on the word about how important it is to 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.

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson is a Democrat representing the 36th District, which includes Magnolia and Queen Anne.[[In-content Ad]]