Today, the land where the highway would be constructed is mostly farmland or grassy. This just magnifies the type of highway construction this is: New Highway, new facility, new corridor. Below is what part of the corridor looks like today:
In times like today when the City of Tacoma and also our state has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled, the last thing that we need is a new highway. This new highway would promote more driving which can be both good in bad. Good in that travel times are reduced and distant places become more connected. However, it is also bad since cars today cause about 50% of the air pollution in our state, but also promote sprawl which promotes auto-dependency and a number of other negative consequences.
However, if nobody thought this was a good idea, it wouldn't be here in the first place. The project's biggest boosters, the Port of Tacoma and the Tacoma-Pierce Chamber recently touted a number of benefits over at the RAMP blog. In their post, they incorrectly claim that the highway itself will generate $10.1 billion and 79,000 jobs by 2025. If this were actually true, then it is a strong argument, but in fact the report (pdf) where these numbers come from states that these benefits come from the growth in the containerized cargo industry, not the highway itself. In all due respect, the report does note that having competitive cargo transit times is important in reigning in the containerized cargo business. However, it is a pity that something as awful as this highway project is being proposed as a remedy - surely there must be a better way.
The presence of the plan and momentum for this highway project underscores just how much importance is being placed on personal vehicle travel despite the numerous perennially unfunded transportation projects that still exist. This includes Pierce Transit's budget shortfall, extending Tacoma Link and finding sustainable funding for Tacoma's Mobility Master Plan, not to mention fixing up the local streets throughout our cities. It reminds me all over of this great comparison made a few months ago by Eric de Place over at Sightline:
This is basically the very same thing over again in Tacoma. Tacoma's mobility master plan is estimated to cost $38.5 million for the entire build-out, Pierce Transit's funding gap is $68 million and even extending Seattle's LINK Light Rail from South Federal Way to Tacoma Dome is estimated at $1.6 billion(pdf). Yet somehow this $2 billion new highway is a higher priority?
Actually, this highway isn't a huge priority just yet. The City of Tacoma is about update their Legislative Policy Manual(pdf) with a whole new paragraph supporting this highway project. The update of the Legislative Policy Manual is in a pending city council agenda for September 28th(pdf) as resolution #12697. The new paragraph would read as follows:
Completion of SR-167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma has been identified by the Legislature as a "mega project." The City believes that completion of this project should be a top priority. ...In summary, I believe that it is time for a shift in the way things are done in that our City and State should focus more on local roads, public transit and non-motorized transportation before new highways if ever focusing on new highways. This new highway would do more harm than good perpetuating intolerable levels of pollution and auto-dependency for the South Sound. Alternatively, there are a whole number of better ways to spend money transportation money if any is to be spent at all.
However, the momentum for this new highway project is strong and in all likelihood will prevail unless our community bitterly protests the project to the extent of knocking it out of our highway-crazy regional plans. We will keep you updated on this highway project, but urge you to badger your Tacoma City Council Member, State Legislator and even Congressperson in the meantime. If we do nothing, this might happen: