I-405 tolling takes a beating in Senate Hearing Room 1


Legislator: Rep. Mark Harmsworth
Run Time: 2:31
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Alarming statistics from the Washington Policy Center on I-405 tolling.  But many motorists who travel that highway probably won't be surprised.  Ruth Johnson reports from the statehouse.

Testimony: “This is a disgusting, appalling abuse of the funds of taxpayers.”

Johnson:  Senators in Olympia got an ear full as people stepped up to the mic to say what they think about the toll lanes on I-405.

Testimony: “Anyone claiming that the 405 toll lanes are a success is peddling fiction.”

Johnson:    Under consideration is Senate Bill 6152 which would modify operation of those lanes.

Harmsworth “The original plan was to run this for two years.  I can’t wait two years with a failed experiment to figure out this isn’t going to work anymore.  We need to give some relief to our drivers right now, so they can get to work and back again.”

Johnson: That’s Mark Harmsworth, a Republican state representative who sponsors a companion bill in the House.  Once the lawmaker from Mill Creek was finished, the testimony in Hearing Room 1 came fast and furious.

Bob Pishue, WA Policy Center:  “Before tolling operations began, the projections showed an average toll during commute would be less than two dollars, yet officials announced in December that tolls ranged from $3 to $3.75, and it has gone up every month since tolling began.”

Johnson:  That’s not all. Bob Pishue with the Washington Policy Center had a wealth of statistics and just two minutes to talk.  He says drivers were led to expect average speeds on the corridor of 43 miles an hour.  In December, it was announced cars on average are traveling 25 to 30 miles an hour.

Pishue was blunt: “The policy on the express toll lanes,” he said, “actually conflicts with the mission of the Department of Transportation.”  Why??

Pishue: “Because toll lanes actually depend on congestion to be successful.”

Johnson:  And the DOT says it’s mission is to reduce congestion.  But, Pishue had more.

Pishue: “Even worse, if the legislature decides to borrow money backed by future toll revenue, it could create a financial obligation to keep toll lanes congested.”

Soon after, Mike Arndtson stepped up to the mike. He stayed away from statistics altogether, and moved straight to metaphor.

Testimony: “This is like a cancer that needs to be eliminated.  A cancer is a healthy cell that doesn’t know when to die, and this lane is a cancer.  It needs to die.  We need to surgically remove it with this bill.”

Johnson: The group Stop405Tolls dot org also testified in favor of Senate Bill 6152.  Said David Hablewitz: “It takes a leader to admit when something isn’t working.”  But speaking more loudly than Hablewitz is the nearly 28-thousand signatures the group has gathered on its online petition.

Ruth Johnson, Olympia.

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