In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Road projects make it easier to commute, but vanpools are still too difficult

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Cheers: To two much-needed local transportation improvements. First, the first portion of a new, wider Interstate 5 overpass at Pioneer Street opened this week, providing a better way to access Ridgefield and the numerous warehousing and manufacturing businesses that have grown around the junction there over the past decade. The old overpass was suitable for a small farming town, but the trucks and residential growth had made it unsafe and created traffic backups at peak times. When fully completed next year or early in 2012, the project will provide an incentive instead of a barrier for future job growth.

The second project, resurfacing 8.5 miles of Highway 14, began this week. Drivers, especially at night, should watch for construction work from Interstate 5 to the Southeast 164th Avenue exit. The pavement is in poor condition, as anyone who drives this stretch regularly already knows. The work had been on the project list for 2011. Federal stimulus money moved the work up by one year. Unfortunately, there is still no money for adding the much-needed additional lane from Interstate 205 to 164th Avenue.

Jeers: To the problems with vanpools. Over the years, government agencies have tried their best to match commuters and provide them with a van that they can drive to work. C-Tran had a vanpool service but outsourced it in the 1990s. Last year, it jumped back in, using a $670,000 state grant to buy 30 vans. A year later, eight are still unclaimed.

When the vanpools work, they are great, participants say. Compared with other forms of commuting, they are cost-effective and green. But there are too many obstacles — changing work schedules, lack of buy-in from employers, and the lack of time to organize pools, to name a few. Attention needs to be paid to these problems before more vans are purchased.

Cheers: To the Road to Recovery’s own economic recovery. Only a few months ago, this 17-year-old club, which provides support and recreation for people recovering from substance abuse, was in danger of closing. It owed money to the landlord and the IRS, and was behind on its utility bills. Now $7,000 in donations has addressed the most pressing needs and the club, at 2205 Fairmount Ave., has a chance to continue its services.

Jeers: To more infighting between the state’s attorney general and other elected officials. In this case, Peter Goldmark, the Democratic lands commissioner, lost a court battle this year about whether a power line could be routed across state land in Okanogan County (where Goldmark coincidentally owns a ranch.) He asked attorney general Rob McKenna to appeal the decision, and McKenna, a Republican, declined. Earlier, McKenna filed suit on behalf of the state to overturn the federal health care reform bill against the wishes of Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire. Goldmark has asked the Supreme Court to force McKenna to represent him; we hope that, whatever the court decides, there is clarity on who is in charge here.

Cheers: To a new recreation plan for the Yacolt Burn State Forest. As drafted, the $4 million, 10-year recreation plan calls for 58.5 new miles of motorized trails, 17 miles of nonmotorized trails, and three miles of bike-only trails. Improvements would be made to Rock Creek and Cold Creek campgrounds, and a new campground for off-roaders would be built near Four Corners. Work on the mountain biking trail may begin as early as next month. Unfortunately, there is little money to carry out the rest of vision.

Jeers: To shady government. A “Sunshine Committee” that examines exemptions in state public records laws has four vacancies because Gov. Gregoire has failed to make appointments. She needs to make this a priority.