July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:47 PM
"Initiative 745 qualified for the November ballot this Monday. If it passes, I'm switching careers to road construction. In case you've missed it, I-745 would require that 90 percent of transportation funds, including transit taxes, be spent on roads. That means transit agencies like Island Transit would have to fork over 90 percent of their tax-generated revenues to the road builders, who would suddenly be sitting in the catbird seat. Initiative 745 comes from Mukilteo resident Tim Eyman, the man who originated the petition drive for I-695, which you may have heard of. No, I'm not going to bash Tim Eyman or I-695. That's water under the overpass. But I do have an opinion about Initiative 745: It's the most cockamamie pile of cow dung I've ever seen reach the ballot. When I was growing up in Tacoma in the 1960s and '70s, I remember driving Interstate 5 to Seattle. There were so few cars you could switch lanes at will, slaloming down the freeway like Jean Claude Killy. No traffic reports on the radio. Just Bachman Turner Overdrive and four lanes of luxury. A well-functioning freeway can be a beautiful thing. What's not to like about banking around a cloverleaf, entering the flow of traffic and feeling the freedom of four wheels on a wide open road? In Montana and Idaho and Utah, you can still experience this. Drive along Montana's Gallatin River on the way to Bozeman, for example, and you'll swear you've died and gone to highway heaven. News flash: The Puget Sound region is more densely populated than Montana. The days of pleasure cruising along Interstate 5, Highway 20, or practically any other Washington roadway west of the Cascades are over. There is no amount of road building, road paving or road improvement that will bring back the carefree, free wheeling days of yore. Initiative 745, meanwhile, tries to sell the idea that by improving our roads and building more of them, our transportation problems in western Washington will improve. This is utterly foolish. There are more cars and more people in our future. Widening Highway 20 and patching a lane here and there to I-405 isn't going to prevent gridlock. Even if we wanted one, there's no place to put another I-5. If the state added just 4 percent to our roadway lane miles, we could reduce traffic congestion by 25 percent (even while accounting for population growth), Eyman said in a recent Seattle Times guest editorial. I-745 correctly changes transportation policy and makes road construction and road maintenance the state's top transportation priorities. Currently, we spend about 20 percent of the transportation budget on public transportation and 80 percent on roads. That seems like a reasonable breakdown to me. Not to Eyman. I-745 rightly recognizes the reality our opponents refuse to, he says. Vehicle owners will not tolerate social engineering schemes that try to force them out of their vehicles. Here we get to the rub. Island Transit, that seething hot bed of communism led by director Martha (Josef) Rose, is using taxpayer money to - gasp! - offer an alternative to the automobile! Never mind that Island County residents, using the democratic process, voted this tax upon themselves for precisely this purpose. A recent state analysis of I-745 says it could shift up to $2.2 billion annually into road construction and maintenance budgets across Washington. So we'll have top-notch roadways if I-745 passes. Which is a good thing. Because we're going to have a lot of time, while stuck in traffic, to appreciate them. "