Legislators need to monitor WSDOT closely for taxpayers

One of the best pieces of news to come out of the just-concluded legislative session was passage of a new transportation package. On SGW we called it “the right package at the right time,” and it’s quite an accomplishment. It comes after a drawn-out, sometimes contentious debate that began in earnest in 2013.

The package is good news for our economy. It builds projects that are important for jobs and commerce – improving I-405, easing the bottleneck at Fort Lewis, and completing SR 167 to the Port of Tacoma, among others. It also prevents an ill-advised low-carbon fuel standard from being imposed by executive order.

Now that the legislative wrangle is over, it’s up to WSDOT to implement these plans. It’s a big job, and the public is watching.

The reality for WSDOT is, public confidence in the agency is low right now. The average driver thinks there’s too much study, too many EIS’s, and not enough action. They’re not wrong.

Legislators’ job not over
The agency’s esteem has not been helped by the Bertha debacle, which is in the news again this week. That situation is not necessarily one of WSDOT’s choosing – it was the City of Seattle that insisted on a reduced-capacity tunnel to replace the viaduct. Voters are displeased all the same and look to WSDOT as the coordinating agency to put the project back on track.

At this important juncture, close, effective legislative oversight is more important than ever. WSDOT needs to know that they have more than the governor and an agency secretary to answer to – the legislators who passed this package, and answer next year to the voters for it, are watching too.

Washington has a part-time legislature. That’s mostly a good thing, but it does make agency oversight more difficult. This is no time for a hands-off approach to project delivery. We’re counting on the legislature’s transportation leaders – especially committee chairs Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima) and Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) – to monitor performance on behalf of the taxpayers, every step of the way.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.
  • Ken Mortland

    Monitoring the performance of state agencies is now the legislature’s job. Does the State Auditor do the performance audits?

  • garithkart

    I would have felt a lot better about the gas tax increase and the transportation package if more oversite and reforms of the prevailing wage requirements and “build it only in Washington” requirements had been implemented.

  • Ray Cox

    How many times have we raised just Texas and had the money go into the general fund
    I’m on a fixed income it’s difficult to make ends meet
    If the funds went into a special for roads and highways and inner structure only it would be a good thing

  • Donna Young

    WA citizens pay way more than enough taxes – #5 highest in the nation in a recent survey. We need tax cuts and solid oversight/use of our tax dollars NOT new, higher taxes and additional fees.

  • Bob Rankin

    There is an irresponsible group in this state, they seem to gravitate
    towards the free lunch. Raising taxes to support too many entitlement
    programs and fiscal mismanagement is not acceptable.

    Bertha is a prime example, tax payers are on the line for continuous
    increases to the original construction open ended contract. The project’s completion has been
    moved into the future several times, the current estimate is 2018, but
    that’s just an estimate, as inaccurate as the others? There is no real
    estimate for final costs that are credible.

    Unfortunately fixing highways and other necessary infrastructure improvements is linked to Seattle’s atrocious mismanagement.