With Labor Day behind us and most K-12 schools in Washington State back in session, signs of fall are all around us. Summer is almost over.
We are now less than sixty days away from the 2019 November general election, which will take place midway through the autumn season.
This year’s general election ballot won’t look like those of years past. The front will be utterly dominated by Tim Eyman measures: one Eyman initiative, one referendum to reinstate an Eyman initiative, and twelve Eyman push polls (“advisory votes”.) We call it the “Eymallot” for this reason.
The Eyman initiative, I-976, is easily the most destructive of the bunch. It would wipe out $4.2 billion in bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments over the next six yeas, according to the Office of Financial Management.
Transportation funding in Washington at every level would be reduced: state, regional, and local. At the state level, the multimodal account would be gutted, jeopardizing the future of Amtrak Cascades intercity rail service.
The freight mobility account would get wiped out, too, hurting projects that would help farmers and manufacturers get their goods to market.
At the regional level, Sound Transit would lose billions in revenue, which would negatively impact the agency’s ability to borrow money to complete voter-approved light rail, commuter rail, and bus expansion projects. Sound Transit estimates I-976 could cost taxpayers as much as $20 billion.
And then there’s the local level.
Transportation benefit district funding relied upon by cities across Washington would be slashed too – from Washougal in southwest Washington’s Clark County along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, to Elmer City located upstream of the Grand Coulee Dam just beside the Colville Reservation.
I-976 accomplishes all this devastation by repealing vehicle fees that were either previously approved by voters or by the elected representatives voters elected.
The sixty-two Washington cities that depend on vehicle fee revenue to fix potholes, widen roads, and repair bridges are gravely concerned — as they should be.
We do not want to see another critical infrastructure failure like the 2013 Skagit River Bridge collapse on I-5 between Mount Vernon and Burlington.
Thankfully, city councils throughout the state are beginning to take note of I-976’s destructive potential — from Vancouver to Bainbridge Island.
Tonight, Everett’s City Council adopted a resolution officially opposing Eyman’s I-976, officially putting Washington’s seventh largest city on the record against the measure. Everett is among the cities that would lose big if I-976 goes into effect.
Moments before the resolution’s passage, Councilmember Scott Murphy summed up his opposition to I-976 by stating: “I-976 takes a sledgehammer and tries to solve a very specific problem. What this issue really needs is a scalpel.”
“It would be really devastating to our own economic agenda,” added Councilmember Brenda Stonecipher.
The council’s resolution mentioned cuts to highway patrol funding, the State Multimodal Account, and Regional Mobility Grants as serious concerns.
You can see the full resolution below.
A Resolution Opposing Washington State Initiative 976
WHEREAS the City of Everett strives to maintain and continuously improve its transportation infrastructure for the benefit of its residents and employers; and
WHEREAS the City has long been committed to keeping its streets in top condition through a robust street overlay program; and
WHEREAS Everett residents have made a long-term investment in Sound Transit, including the delivery of light rail to Everett, which will provide fast, convenient, and reliable transit for Everett residents and workers to points throughout the Puget Sound region; and
WHEREAS the City Council and Mayor recognize that Initiative 976 would have extremely negative impacts on City, County and State transportation infrastructure, including the loss of Everett’s Transportation Benefit District, which typically provides more than half of the City’s $3 million annual street overlay budget; and
WHEREAS Sound Transit would lose approximately $7 billion for Sound Transit 3 projects if I-976 were to pass, which would put delivery of light rail to Everett at extremely grave risk; and
WHEREAS passage of I-976 would result in a nearly $2 billion loss of six years in State transportation funding for highways, the Washington State Patrol and other critical investments, impacting Snohomish County and every corner of the state; and
WHEREAS I-976 would strip more than $1.4 billion over six years from the State’s Multimodal Account, from which the City of Everett has received approximately $13.3 million over the past 15 years for projects including the 41st Street Overcrossing, I-5/41st Street Ramp, East Marine View Drive improvements and the 41st Street Freight Corridor; and
WHEREAS I-976 would jeopardize $100 million in biennial funding for State Regional Mobility Grants, which Everett Transit has used to help purchase electric buses and add Park & Ride stalls at Everett Station, and which also help fund sidewalks, bike infrastructure, Safe Routes to School projects and projects that benefit seniors and people with disabilities,
NOW, THEREFORE, THE EVERETT CITY COUNCIL DOES RESOLVE:
The City Council confirm its opposition to Initiative 976, which will be on the statewide ballot in November 2019, as it would cause extreme harm to the development and maintenance of our transportation infrastructure, thereby jeopardizing economic growth and quality of life in Everett and throughout the region.
Passed and approved this 4th day of September 2019.
The Economic Alliance of Snohomish County, Snohomish County’s countywide chamber of commerce representing over four hundred entities, is a member of the NO on I-976 coalition (of which NPI is also a member) working to defeat I-976. Erik Ashlie-Vinke, representing the EASC, made comments at the City Council meeting, making the point that TBDs contribute vitally to all sorts of programs, from Safe Routes to Schools to pothole repair.
The Washington and Northern Idaho District Council of Laborers, through Billy Wallace, also made a comment at the meeting.
Wallace emphasized that there are apprentices going through training programs that possibly will retire on the projects that ST3 funds, all the while making a solid family wage and building an equitable pension to a respectable retirement.
For the general public, Wallace noted it will also “take care of getting people home in time so that they can spend more time with their family.”
(Everett’s traffic, incidentally, was rated worst in the nation in 2018.)
Wallace emphasized we have to do what we can to get as much capacity as possible out of the infrastructure we can build, which is transit.
A few more notes from the resolution about Everett in particular:
- Everett is one of the largest cities in the state with a Transportation Benefit District, which levies a vehicle fee as part of the $1,526,992 the TBD collected in revenue in 2017 – over half of the City’s roadwork budget, says the resolution. Roadwork on Beverly Blvd, Seaway Blvd, Colby Ave, and Marine View Dr were all conducted partially using TBD funding in 2017. You can see the good work the TBD’s funds were used for in 2017 through this link. Additionally, eleven out of the sixty-two total communities in Snohomish County use TBDs for road maintenance.
- When Link light rail reaches Lynnwood in 2024, Snohomish County will be connected to the network for the first time. Further extension to Everett by 2036 was approved through ST3 but will be jeopardized by I-976. Council President Scott Bader made it clear: the region’s elected leaders have made a commitment to voters to deliver high-quality transit throughout the Puget Sound and they must deliver.
We cannot afford Tim Eyman’s I-976. Learn more about the impacts before your ballot shows up by visiting the Keep Washington Rolling coalition website.
Then vote NO on I-976 by November 5th, 2019.