In response to Mr. Ewing’s letter, I do agree there is a lot of misinformation floating around about the SR-520 bridge. I will answer his assertions.
First, while it is easy to pick and choose facts to support one’s position, it is more important to discover the reality of a situation. In 2011 WSDOT estimated that federal transportation funding for the state of Washington would be 20 percent less than in previous years.
Yes, the WSDOT budget has increased from 1991 to 2013.
However, among the factors to be considered other than the raw numbers are: population increase, increase in vehicular miles driven, increased maintenance costs as more infrastructure is built, debt service on earlier projects, replacement costs of infrastructure as it wears out and additional demands such as strategies to protect the environment.
Briefly, comparing 1991 budget numbers to a 2013 budget doesn’t give us much worthwhile information. The comparison is much more complex than that.
Next, the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the SR-520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Project states, “The proposed project would improve safety and mobility in the SR-520 corridor by replacing the vulnerable bridges…” No, the current bridge is not being retained. It is vulnerable to earthquake and wind loads.
Finally, Mr. Ewing has confused the mean with the median. A mean sums household incomes and divides by the number of households. Wikipedia defines the median as a “numerical value separating the higher half of a sample from the lower half.” According to the City of Mercer Island website, the estimated mean family income on Mercer Island is $219,053. The estimated median family income, which I used, is $145,774.
I, too, am tired of being bullied by politicians. The state Legislature began studying tolling for SR-520 in 2008. That was the time for input on policy. Yet we have a Johnny-come-lately City Council member who suddenly advocates revisiting the issue. We can debate policy forever and in the meantime we risk our bridges falling down and our infrastructure further deteriorating. Such delaying tactics not only cost money but risk lives and the health of Puget Sound economy as the bridge ages.
We are being penny wise and pound foolish when we fight tooth and nail against paying for essential infrastructure.
We need to look at what’s really so, solve problems, step into action, and create a future that we are proud to leave our children.