Thursday, October 24, 2013

Washington House GOP Transpo Survey

The Washington State House Republicans tweeted out a survey regarding transportation funding... figured I'd share my responses here:

(Q1) Would you be willing to pay 10 cents or more per gallon of gas to pay for transportation projects around the state?

(A1) Yes.  (also- mmm A1)

(Q2) If you had to pay 10 cents or more per gallon of gas, how would this impact you financially?

(A2) It would have little to no impact on me financially.

(Q3) If our state moves forward with a transportation revenue package, please rank what you think the funding priorities should be:

(A3) 1-Transit Agencies ;; 2-Ped/Bike Paths ;; 3-Large Projects ;; 4-Maintenance ;; 5-Ferries ;; 6-Hwy Widening

(Q5) The governor is pushing for a special session, before the regular legislative session scheduled for January 2014, to pass a transportation revenue package. Do you think a special session is necessary for this issue?

(A5) Yes

(Q6) The high-profile failures of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) have cost taxpayers millions of extra dollars. We want safeguards put in place to prevent these problems. We are pushing for reforms to ensure accountability in our state transportation system. Some of our solutions include: 
using transportation dollars to fund transportation projects, not other government programs; 
reducing cost of permitting while protecting the environment; 
reducing or eliminating non-essential components of projects; and 
making sure taxpayers don't get stuck paying for cost overruns and errors. 

Please share your feedback on these solutions, or any other ideas you have for transportation reforms:

RE: Projects, not Programs - There is some validity, but caution must be given toward supporting only those projects which are prettiest and most politically-linked; leaving behind those which may be necessary but of little interest; or those which bring more benefits than a legislature's pork preference. What is wrong with the programs, and why not reform those rather than scrap them entirely?

RE: Permitting - Everyone wants to cut red tape; it's easy to say it.  But in practice: many of those delays, costs, restrictions, limitations, requirements... they were all put in place for a reason.  It's fair to question some, cut some of them.  But at what cost?  Do not take such a blanket approach; be deliberate in what is struck and what is kept.

RE: Eliminating Non-Essential - Another bit of lip-service: why do we have anything if we do not consider it important?  As with permitting: most elements are in place for a reason.  Beware overriding technical expertise or past regulations & priorities too hastily, without forethought and deliberation.

RE: Overruns / Errors - I couldn't agree more!  Errors are easier: there are legal processes that can be taken.  Overruns, however, can be politically-driven: it pains me when I work with a cost estimate that everyone widely agrees is wildly inaccurate, but the project would never move forward if the real numbers were used.  Or there are large variables, such as a private company (often utilities) being part of the critical path, but inducing delays due to inaction... and in some cases utilities are legally immune from those because of how deregulation set them up.  Or prices can skyrocket, as has been the case with asphalt, in particular.  Don't just look at shifting the costs & blame, as that WILL come back with higher-cost bids & competition that is reduced to only a few of the largest companies... instead: look at the causes.

(Q7) Please share your comments, concerns or questions regarding transportation and/or a proposed transportation revenue package:

(A7) It depends what quality infrastructure you want, which directly impacts our personal lives and businesses. It is *because* I am conservative that I support mass transit, bicycle, and pedestrian transport: a socialized cost, yes, but it enables greater freedom of movement for all users, reduces demand on the road network which freight can utilize, and are the more efficient lower-cost modes.  [a bit more detail]

Regardless of mode: assuming you want to fund infrastructure to maintain a healthy economy: we need funding in some form, be it the antiquated fuel taxes or some other manner: mileage taxes, tolling, etc... but at the least, if we want to use our existing framework: we need to index to inflation of construction costs so that the purchasing power of the revenue does not erode over time.