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Initiative Measure 985 – No

Opponents to Initiative I-985 created the website No on I-985 to refute claims made by initiative supporters and state that the Initiative will take money away from schools, rural communities, and law enforcement and will make traffic worse, not better.

Claim #1: “I-985 blows a $600 million hole in the state budget over 5 years.”


Over five years, approximately $622.6 million would be redirected from projects and activities supported by state and local general and transportation funds to congestion relief activities. (Secretary of State, I-985 Fiscal Impact Statement)

Claim #2: “I-985 takes money away from schools, safety, and law enforcement.”

Partially true.

The initiative will create an account called the Reduce Traffic Congestion Account (Initiative Measure 985 Text, Section 10, pdf). Money from taxes and various projects will be deposited in this account including:

  • 15% of the total sales tax revenue collected from the sale of motor vehicles, except for retail car rentals (Secretary of State, I-985 Explanatory Statement).
  • “Revenue from infractions detected with the use of automated traffic safety cameras…” (Secretary of State, I-985 Explanatory Statement)
  • 0.5% of the money allocated to state agencies for transportation-related public works projects after December 4, 2008 (Initiative Measure 985 Text, Section 13, pdf).
  • Revenue from tolls after December 4, 2008, except for the Washington State ferry toll (Initiative Measure 985 Text, Section 15, pdf).

Opponents to this Initiative believe that this money could better be used towards schools and law enforcement rather than reducing traffic congestion (Initiative 985: Concerns with Funding, 20 October 2008).

The Washington Research Council reported in a Policy Brief that

the Initiative would divert $290 million from the General Fund to the Reduce Traffic Congestion Account  through the end of the 2009–11 biennium.

Claim #3: “I-985 siphons tax money from rural communities to pay for pet transportation projects in urban Puget Sound.”

True. (This is not explicitly stated in the Initiative text, however, it is expected to occur if I-985 is approved.)

Sightline Institute, in the report “Giant Sucking Sound: How Initiative 985 Would Siphon Millions of Dollars from Central and Eastern Washington to Greater Seattle” (pdf) states that:

An analysis of I‐985’s spending priorities suggests that roughly 90 percent of —more than $518 million over 5 years—would ultimately be directed towards Greater Seattle (King, Snomish, and Pierce counties). Together, these three counties have…

  • All of the carpool lanes that would be affected by I‐985;
  • About 90 percent of aggregate traffic congestion delays in the state;
  • Just over half of the state’s total population—enough to sway crucial political decisions about how state congestion money would be spent.

Claim #4: “Independent traffic engineers agree: I-985 would make congestion worse.”


The Institute of Transportation Engineers reported in an October 3, 2008 memorandum titled “Predicted Traffic and Transportation Impacts of Initiative 985″ (pdf) that:

I-985 contains significant flaws that will likely, on net, increase congestion and possibly impact safety on the roads and highways of metropolitan Puget Sound.

They also note other concerns with the 985 Initiative

(1) an increased risk of car crashes; (2) reductions in the ability of emergency
and incident-response vehicles to travel quickly in crowded HOV lanes; (3) direct
contradictions with federal requirements for the management of direct access ramps,
potentially forcing closure of some facilities at off-peak hours; and (4) reductions in the
speed, reliability, and cost-recovery of transit service that could reduce performance for
transit users and could lead some drivers to switch to driving alone—increasing traffic
volumes on already crowded roadways.

Cited Resources:

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