Opinion

Paving the way to prosperity | Editorial

There has been talk that the economy just might be improving — both in our region and across the country. Let’s hope so. Certainly, holiday shopping is good for the economy. So is government spending.

While the city of Mercer Island is being prudent by keeping its spending to a minimum, there is plenty of money, it seems, coming to our region via state and federal government projects.

More than 1,000 statewide transportation projects utilizing $2 billion in federal funds are included in the Washington State Department of Transportation’s latest 2013-2016 Transportation Improvement Plan. These projects include pavement overlays, roadway widening, bridge replacement or repair, signal systems, safety enhancements, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and transit facilities.

It may seem dull, but the plan is anything but. In it one will find nothing less than the millions of dollars in investments in roads and highways that may determine not only the best places to invest in real estate, but how our state economy might fare in the coming years. The dollars will mean jobs — maybe for the some 60,000 Washingtonians who will lose their extended unemployment benefits at the end of the year.

Placing Internet commerce aside for a minute, transportation networks will determine what areas might thrive or fail based on how they can be reached by bus, train or car.

But, this is a draft. Citizens are asked to comment before the plan is finalized. It is our money. It is our state.

As much as these plans are all about getting goods and people to where they need to go, these changes have huge impacts on the environment. Will these projects continue to encourage, er, enable cars and increase emissions at the expense of wildlife or water quality in fragile areas? Here is a chance to at least ask.

For more information and ways to comment, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/localprograms.

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