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6/19/2008
Washington: Anti-Congestion Referendum Gathers Momentum
Washington state voter initiative to remove profit from red light cameras, synchronize traffic lights and reduce congestion clears first hurdle.

Jack Fagan, Tim Eyman, Mike FaganIt appears increasingly likely that Washington state voters will have a chance to approve an anti-congestion initiative on the November ballot. Initiative 985 would remove profit from red light cameras, synchronize traffic lights and create a fund devoted to reducing congestion. Later today, activists representing the group Voters Want More Choices are planning planning to hand the Secretary of State's office more than 226,000 signatures -- exceeding the minimum required to certify the measure for the upcoming election.

"We've cleared a huge initial hurdle, but we've got another final hurdle to go," lead activist Tim Eyman said in an email to supporters. "We need to turn-in a bunch of extra voter signatures -- a cushion -- to ensure we qualify I-985 for the ballot."

Since each signature needs to be verified against voter records, Eyman wants another 50,000 by July 3 to be absolutely sure the initiative has a sufficient number of verified signatures by the deadline. Eyman's personal stake in the matter is significant. In April he mortgaged his home to loan $250,000 to the campaign to cover the expenses of collecting and processing so many signatures. That money joined $279,000 in individual donations the campaign had received up to that point.

"I'm jumping off a big cliff," Eyman said at the time. "As you can imagine, this is scary stuff -- but failure is simply not an option."

Since then, individual donations and support have continued to pour in.

Initiative 985 is a package of specific measures intended to reduce traffic congestion. First among these is a simple requirement forcing city and state traffic engineers to synchronize traffic lights at busy intersections. The state auditor would be required to verify the performance of these changes to travel time, emissions and fuel consumption. The state auditor predicted between ten and twenty-five percent reduction in these factors from synchronization alone.

The initiative also creates a traffic congestion reduction fund paid for by re-directing several existing motorist taxes away from spending on unrelated projects such as artwork. The new fund could be used only on things like roadside assistance services to clear accidents quickly and adding general purpose lanes to existing or new roads. A final provision of the referendum would open high occupancy vehicle (HOV) carpool lanes to general purpose use during weekends and off-peak hours. (View text of initiative)

Washington state voters interested in signing the petition can find more information at ReduceCongestion.org




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