Is tolls-focused I-1125 needed? No

No: County will see project costs soar; jobs, road funds will be lost

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Activist Tim Eyman weighs in

Yes: Lawmakers need to know hikes in taxes, fees must be last resort

OFFICIAL BALLOT TITLE:

Initiative Measure No. 1125 concerns state expenditures on transportation.

This measure would prohibit the use of motor vehicle fund revenue and vehicle toll revenue for non-transportation purposes, and require that road and bridge tolls be set by the Legislature and be project-specific.

Should this measure be enacted into law?

[ ] Yes

[ ] No

(For more information, visit http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections then click on “2011 General Election Online Voters Guide.”

Initiative 1125 is an ill-conceived and poorly timed measure cobbled together by Tim Eyman and a Seattle-area developer who wrote a $1 million check to put I-1125 on the Nov. 8 ballot. If passed, Initiative 1125 will halt major transportation projects here in Clark County and throughout Washington state.

This measure is opposed by business groups across Washington and has received a strong thumbs down by Identity Clark County and the Greater Vancouver Chamber. Passage of I-1125 will not only dramatically increase the costs of building the Columbia River Crossing and delay its completion as the courts sort out the inevitable lawsuits, it will negatively impact road and transportation projects of all types throughout Southwest Washington.

This will cost businesses more in transportation costs and will ultimately cost all of us from slowed economic growth.

Tolls are a user fee — people only pay for what they use. That’s fairer than either raising taxes on everyone statewide or diverting limited resources from smaller communities to fund critical road safety and transportation projects.

Eliminating or restricting the tolls that Seattle-area drivers would pay to finance their multibillion-dollar projects like the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, I-1125’s passage would force transportation planners to look to the statewide gasoline tax. Without user fees, the gas tax will be used for an expanded Lake Washington Bridge, new I-405 freeway lanes and improvements to the highways that serve the Port of Tacoma.

That would mean fewer dollars for Clark County transportation projects, not just the Columbia River Crossing, but needed road projects throughout Vancouver, Camas/Washougal and Battle Ground. Talk to any of the planners in those cities and they will tell you that our roads are badly in need of funding for repairs. The loss of tolling as a funding option for Washington’s larger projects will ultimately divert funding from smaller road projects throughout the rest of the state. Slow commutes and gridlock will just get worse and worse, without any sign of improvement on the horizon.

With Clark County unemployment still in double-digit territory, Initiative 1125 will cost us jobs. Not only could we lose the estimated 2,000 jobs per year that the Columbia River Crossing could provide for 10 years, and the direct jobs from other large road projects, poor road conditions will hurt local manufacturers, recovering builders, retailers and other Vancouver and Clark County businesses who depend on good roads to transport their goods and services throughout the region.

The negative economic impacts won’t just stop with job losses, the costs of projects like the Columbia River Crossing will soar out of sight. Currently, an independent, bipartisan commission of transportation experts sets toll rates, as in every other state in the union. The passage of I-1125 will put the setting of our toll rates in the hands of politicians in the state Legislature in Olympia.

Our state treasurer recently said that placing financing decisions at the mercy of the political processes in Olympia and in the hands of politicians will mean that the independent bonding agencies who bond large projects may not bond our projects, or if they do, it would cost us up to an additional $18 million for every $100 million in bonds sold.

Without the ability to bond major projects against tolling revenue, the state will be forced to turn to the gas tax and other sources of funding, meaning taxpayers around the state will pay more for projects that they may never use.

Economic growth and transportation are tied together in Clark County. Congestion, gridlock and unsafe roadways create serious problems for businesses that rely on efficient production, services and roads to deliver their goods to their customers. Eyman’s I-1125 blows a hole in important transportation funding critical to our area.

That’s why Identity Clark County and the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce urge you to vote NO on Initiative 1125.

Paul Montague of Vancouver is executive director of Identity Clark County.