As shocking images of the collapsed I-5 bridge over the Skagit River started to emerge, our thoughts were immediately with the people in the river and the first responders that quickly rescued them. The relief was great when we learned that injuries were minor and no life was lost.
How could this happen?
The simple answer is that the state doesn’t prioritize fixing our dangerous bridges nearly enough.
Across Washington State, there are 366 “structurally deficient” bridges. These are bridges with a critical defect in an element of the structure. And while it’s true that the Skagit River bridge wasn’t listed as “structurally deficient,” its “sufficiency rating” was low – a mere 57.4 out of 100 points. What’s even scarier, there are 759 bridges in worse condition.
Right now our Legislature has the opportunity to support a multi-billion dollar transportation investment proposal. We need to make sure that proposal includes more money to fix our broken bridges and crumbling roads.
Our bridges are not the only transportation infrastructure that is in crisis.
Over the last three years, cuts to bus service have left thousands of Pierce and Snohomish County residents stranded. And now King County Metro faces 17% cuts unless the state legislature authorizes new local funding options.
Just two months ago we were all saddened when grandparents were struck and killed while they were crossing a street with their daughter and grandson in North Seattle. It happens too often, especially when we know that making key pedestrian and bicycle investments will make our streets safer for all users.
And, finally, we all know the crisis Puget Sound and other waterways across the state are in. It’s estimated that the infrastructure improvements needed to clean-up the toxic pollution from roads will cost more than $5 billion.
It’s time to end politics as usual. It’s time to prioritize fixing our transportation crises.