Opinion

Legislature needs to deal with transportation now | Other Voices

By Claudia Balducci and Kevin Wallace

Bellevue is a great place to live and work. Our city is made up of strong, vibrant neighborhoods, and it’s a booming employment center and high-tech hub.

With our excellent schools, beautiful parks and high-energy downtown, Bellevue is on the move and focused on the future. Along with the rest of the Puget Sound region, Bellevue and the Eastside have long been an economic engine of the state.

The city is also a regional transportation center, with three major highways running through it. Mobility is critical for our residents, workers, students and visitors. Keeping our regional economy strong and enhancing our quality of life depends on being able to move people and goods safely and reliably.

However, congested roads are hindering our ability to do that, and now we’re at a critical juncture. In order to reduce congestion and maintain mobility on Washington highways, we urge state legislators to approve a funding package for essential transportation projects – in this year’s special session.

Interstate 405 remains the most congested highway in the state and funding the next $1.2 billion phase of construction, from Bellevue to Tukwila, is vital to the economic growth of the region, and to the quality of life for city residents. Similarly, improvements to State Route 520 are still unfunded on the west side of Lake Washington, and a westbound off-ramp at 124th Street is needed.

Bellevue commuters and many others rely heavily on transit service. We urge the Legislature to come up with a viable solution that enables transit providers to maintain and, ultimately, to enhance current service levels. We cannot afford the drastic cuts in transit service projected to occur without new funding.

Bellevue has worked long and hard on a land use and transportation plan to expand and redevelop the Bel-Red corridor, which connects the Eastside’s two biggest job centers: downtown Bellevue and Microsoft’s main campus in Redmond.

There’s a great opportunity to grow quality jobs, reduce traffic congestion and improve the environment with coordinated support of this effort, but Bellevue cannot do it alone. New state revenue is needed for highways, roads and public transportation to support this regional growth.

The Bellevue City Council is unanimous in its support for transportation investments now that reduce congestion by improving our roads, maintaining transit service, connecting our economic corridors, and making it safer to walk, bike, and drive. We also support efforts to reduce the costs of delivering these expensive projects in order to maximize public investment in our transportation infrastructure.

We urge the Legislature to complete its work on a much-needed transportation package that finishes SR 520, completes the next phase of improvements to I-405 and preserves King County Metro bus routes. Our legislators understand that the continued health of our city is at stake and they have been working hard to address the challenges. We support them in approving a balanced, statewide transportation package – this year. Action is needed now to keep Bellevue, and Washington state, moving.

 

Claudia Balducci and Kevin Wallace are members of the Bellevue City Council.

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