Orcutt: No need to increase transpo investment because ’11 of the 12 sections of the bridge are still standing’

orcuttEd Orcutt, the ranking Republican on the Washington House Transportation Committee, has sent another email with questionable conclusions about transportation policy.

You may remember the representative from this misstep from March: “You would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving in a car.”

That statement and an email saying as much garnered him national attention.

Now, the anti-tax legislator has pushed back against the call for increasing transportation maintenance funding in the wake of the I-5 Skagit River bridge collapse.

Why is the collapse not an example of the need for more transportation investments? “11 of the 12 sections of the bridge are still standing,” he wrote in a recent email posted by Slog.

As Goldy points out at Slog, the problem is that “92 percent of a bridge isn’t a bridge.”

Orcutt seems to bend over backwards to defend his belief that the state should not raise taxes and spending no matter what. But in light of the recent collapse, I think it’s safe to say that almost every person in Washington regardless of political affiliation no longer trusts bridges that can completely collapse if a truck simply collides with it.

Meanwhile, the legislature’s transportation proposal so far has focused mostly on new and expanded highways rather than repairs and maintenance. In fact, out of an $8.4 billion package, only $900M would go to maintenance. This also makes no sense.

Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree that it is common sense to invest in repairs to the crumbling infrastructure Washington already has. Safety should be the state’s transportation priority, and we have 135 “structurally deficient” bridges and many others that are not safe for all users. To invest most our funds elsewhere (or to not invest at all) would be irresponsible.

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18 Responses to Orcutt: No need to increase transpo investment because ’11 of the 12 sections of the bridge are still standing’

  1. Gary says:

    First, I am pro tax and spend on infustructure, that’s new and maintence. Second being a bicyclist, I want more of the money spent so that I can ride real places, like Seattle to Bellingham or Tacoma safely without having to know every backroad/alley/trail before I leave on the trip. ie, I want signage as well as bike lanes, sharrows and trails as appropriate.

    But, the I-90 bridge fell down because a truck hit it. We could fix this by installing I-beams in front of these low bridges to take the hit instead of reinforcing the bridge itself. Here’s a video of just such a barrier and the results of hitting it and not paying attention to the signage.

    http://youtu.be/JsAlzV4qSD8

    And yes we should raise the transporation tax on the things that wear the roads and bridges out, trucks, cars etc and fix them. But this particular bridge did not fall due to lack of money. And Rep. Orcutt can be right, just as a stopped clock is right twice a day.

  2. Austin says:

    Fewer functioning highways results in fewer carbon emissions, correct? The more difficult it is to make an automobile trip the better, in my opinion.

    • Gary says:

      “Fewer functioning highways results in fewer carbon emissions, correct”

      A (cars produce carbon emissions)
      B (cars drive on highways)
      A -> B
      But not B does not mean not A…

      That is to say, even if there were no highways there would still be cars.

      In this particular case since the cars will now be driving in congested traffic they will be generating more carbon emissions (unless they are electric!) as they idle and take longer to get from a to b.

      • Andres says:

        “In this particular case since the cars will now be driving in congested traffic they will be generating more carbon emissions”

        You assume that people will continue to live in suburban sprawl. Sprawl is enabled by highways. Would you be willing to do a daily one-way commute of 50 miles on local roads (2 hours, with lots of stop lights, signs, pedestrian/cyclist crossings, etc)? On the other hand, 50 miles on a highway (less than an hour of zoning out, listening to an audiobook) is much more reasonable to the average person.

      • Al Dimond says:

        As Andres said, there’s the whole induced demand thing — LA’s freeways didn’t cure it of congestion, but they did make most people’s commutes longer in distance and caused new parts of the city to be built around freeway commutes, in development patterns hostile to transit, cycling, and walking. In the long run we’re better off with fewer freeways.

      • Gary says:

        You are right, most people are willing to commute up to about an hour. Add good bus service, rail, or freeways and you will see more sprawl. It’s the flip side of any transportation improvements.

        On the other hand, make it harder to go longer distances and you get more business sprawling outward to get cheaper employees. As the denser the city, the higher the cost of living, the higher the wages have to be for someone to live there.

        It’s quite the conundrum. My theory is build denser cities by adding higher capacity transportation that slows down the sprawl because you can live on the areas that otherwise get turned into roads. And add good bicycling facilities because while it isn’t good for long distances, bicycles don’t take up much space. And it’s healthier for the population to move under their own power. Now that does limit mobility for people with mobility issues who could otherwise drive. That’s where elevated or subway rail comes in along with good sidewalks.

        Still though we need to be able to transport freight and from the history of rail freight of the late 1800’s needs to be under heavy regulation to prevent price gouging.

  3. Al Dimond says:

    I can’t believe I’m going to agree with this dude, but… there isn’t actually a crisis, at least not a timely one. We’re conflating our legitimate worries over stuff like the South Park Bridge and the AWV, and our legitimate shame at the poor condition of many roads, with stuff like this, dangers than can be mostly eliminated using cheap and simple warning systems and actually adhering to established safety practices. Blowing the budget wide open to replace a bunch of bridges ahead of schedule with be both financially and environmentally irresponsible, and would distract us from working on making our transportation system more sustainable (again, environmentally and financially).

    There is a true maintenance backlog, and we need to get to work on it, but it isn’t on structurally deficient bridges. And our real enemies aren’t the anti-tax legislators but the pro-freeway expansion legislators, who want to turn this backlog into a burden for generations.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I agree that its frustrating that the only two voices in the state legislature are “Don’t spend any money” and “Let’s spend tons of money on new and expanded highways.”

  4. Nathaniel says:

    In fact, out of an $8.4 billion package, only $900K would go to maintenance.

    That should be $900 million, not $900K.

  5. Anthony says:

    Huh? Has anyone here cycled the I-5 bridge? I am not sure why the blog is taking aim at Orcutt now, which makes this look like an easy potshot, and a cheap one too. I don’t like the guy, especially after his silly comments before, but this is silly singling him out for something not really cycling related.

    As for the cycling bridges and associated items, need to look at the most heavily traveled ones for us and the other bridges which highlight ways to see our beautiful state.

    Start with the Ballard Bridge and make the sidewalk wider, then do the same to the Deception Pass bridge, to name tow for starters.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      State transpo funding is absolutely a biking issue. Neither funding tons of new mega highways nor cutting funding is good for cycling in the state. Orcutt’s statement is silly, but it’s also an entry point to steering the conversation to something that makes more sense than the options presented so far.

      • Anthony says:

        Of course state transportation funding is a cycling issue, but its a horrible entry point to go after a politician, so why didn’t you just start with the funding issue or focusing on safer streets. Frankly, this looks like you picked an easy target by using a politician who isn’t your (or mine) in our district.

        Want to pick on a state legislator? Choose Barbara Bailey, from MY district. The infinite wisdom over at Seattle Transit Blog stupidly endorsed her, and now she is trying to take civil liberties away. Gee, not surprised here. All they wanted was to get rid of Mary Margaret Haugen so they could get a transpo chair to their liking. Well, they didn’t want to think about the implications of it, and are now seeing the results of their vote.

  6. Tom Fucoloro says:

    I actually just read Danny Westneat’s column, which argues much of the same things I was trying to say: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2021075580_westneat29xml.html

  7. Joseph Singer says:

    Orcutt is a joke.

  8. Conrad says:

    Its a good point. Every day I ride by the tunnel construction and take in that marvel of engineering- but then think about what it all must cost, and then how are we ever going to pay for it when the toll revenue forecast is about one third of what it was originally when everyone decided that we just had to have this thing. And then, we don’t even have the money to maintain the roads and bridges we already have?
    As far as our elected leaders are concerned: If Orcutt wants to save the state some money, I think his pension would be a good place to start.

    • Gary says:

      I wonder how it’s going to hold up in the next big earthquake. The lower portion is 80ft below sealevel and in sand. The fault line runs transerse to the tunnel which means it could shift sideways up to 6 ft. That would let the seawater in and the sand…

      And yes if you look at the HOT lane revenue from 167, it’s not likely that this tunnel will pay for itself.

      • Nathaniel says:

        Tunnels generally fare much better in earthquakes than other infrastructure, and I feel pretty confident that the engineers have considered that. As for tolls, I wonder how many people SOVs drive past public transportation infrastructure and think “how are we ever going to pay for it when the farebox recovery ratio is only about one third of the operating costs?”

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