As Cienna reported yesterday on Slog, $98 million dollars has now been pledged toward the $131 million cost of replacing the South Park Bridge:
King County ($30 million), Washington state ($20 million), city of Seattle ($15 million), State Transportation Improvement Board ($10 million), Port of Seattle ($5 million), Senator Murray’s Federal DOT-HUD funding bill ($3 million), and PSRC ($15 million).
On the one hand, it’s terrific news to see the region finally getting its shit together on replacing such an absolutely essential, if unglamorous piece of local infrastructure. On the other hand, our political leaders should be absolutely ashamed that it took the bridge’s closure to finally get them to act. How many small, local businesses in the district surrounding the bridge are going to fail during the couple year closure? Or does it not really matter when it’s the wrong type of businesses closing?
Put perhaps more importantly, from a pure public policy perspective, what an incredibly fucked up way of funding local infrastructure!
$20 million here, $15 million there, $3 million in loose change from under the cushions on the couch… really? That’s how we fund road construction around here? I mean, since when did the Port of Seattle become a road-building agency? And yet the Big Bore tunnel, let alone the South Park Bridge wouldn’t be possible without hundreds of millions of dollars from the port. The port, for chrisakes. How fucked up is that? And honestly, how dishonest?
It’s all taxpayer dollars after all; the county and the port, for example, share district boundaries and tax exactly the same people. So why do we have to go through this incredibly stupid charade of raising money from seven — count ’em — seven different taxpayer funded governmental entities?
Why? Because our region has become paralyzed by the politics of something for nothing.
There was a time when the county and city had the taxing authority to maintain their own roads without resorting to begging or special levies or, well, laundering taxpayer dollars through the Port of Seattle. But no more. Not since Tim Eyman’s I-747 vindictively capped property tax revenue growth at an absolutely ridiculous one percent annual growth, a limit our cowardly governor and legislature ridiculously reimposed after it was thrown out by the courts.
One percent! Not enough to keep up with inflation, let alone our region’s growth. Are we really that stupid and irresponsible? (Are we, Seattle Times editorial board? Are we?)
I’ve got no problem with state and federal contributions to local projects — it’s always worked that way — but here’s a novel idea: how about giving the city and county sufficient taxing authority to take on the primary responsibility of maintaining city and count roads, instead of relying on such an incredibly convoluted and stupid-ass funding goulash? Wouldn’t that be more efficient? And since the money is all coming from the same people, wouldn’t it be dramatically more honest and transparent?
Or are we really better off sacrificing the South Park business district for the sake of hiding from taxpayers what basic services really cost?