South Sound desperately needs transportation package

Time is running out to pass a statewide, comprehensive transportation package. Without one, we will all continue to sit in gridlock.

Delays on Interstate 5 near Joint Base Lewis-McChord are routine and recognized as some of the worst in the state, with harsh consequences for the entire region. Eroding and inadequate infrastructure along this corridor threatens our state’s economic competitiveness, safety and quality of life.

Goods to market are stopped on I-5. Workers headed to jobs are stopped on I-5. As a global gateway for trade, existing gridlock translates to too many freight vehicles delayed trying to move goods from the Port of Tacoma, diminishing the ability of our region to compete in the global economy.

Recent Washington Department of Transportation studies confirm what we already know: Traveling along I-5 in the JBLM area, especially during peak afternoon times, means that we’re often crawling along at 15 to 40 miles below the speed limit.

What’s more troubling is that if we do nothing, these delays will get even worse over the next 25 years. We’ll see speeds of less than 20 miles an hour in both directions on much of the this corridor.

Simply put, the design of I-5 dates back to the 1950s and is not capable of supporting today’ routine traffic volumes. The recent outcome of work spearheaded by WSDOT in partnership with Lakewood and many other regional stakeholders shows an investment totaling $450 million for the I-5/JBLM corridor will work. Without meaningful investment, such as adding lanes and reconfiguring interchanges, the problem cannot be solved.

Beyond needed work on I-5 the package would also make important improvements to state Route 167 and will provide congestion relief for commuters on our most traveled corridors.

The solution is within reach. We can’t afford to wait another 10 or 20 years. The impact of the transportation package provides a tremendous return on investment that will result in shorter travel times, job creation and economic prosperity within the Pierce County region.

If these projects are not adequately funded, we will continue to struggle with congestion and gridlock for decades to come. Call the legislative hotline today (1-800-562-6000) and urge your legislators to come to agreement on a comprehensive transportation package this session. Our economy depends on it.

Don Anderson is the mayor of Lakewood.