Monday, November 19, 2007

Another Voice: Brian Sonntag

Brian Sonntag, Washington State Auditor, offers some recommendations in today's edition of The News Tribune based upon his department's recent performance audit on traffic congestion. Sonntag, former Pierce County auditor, has been state auditor since 1993.

The performance audit identified steps that could reduce congestion between 15 and 20 percent over the next five years, claims Sonntag, without requiring additional resources. Among the recommended actions are the following:
  • Increase discretion over using HOV lanes;
  • Coordinate traffic signals on arterials with freeway exit ramps;
  • Expand promotion of car pools and public transit; and
  • Improve responses to traffic accidents.

According to Sonntag, the audit also points out that reducing traffic congestion "has not been a top priority among state transportation officials." He recommends that WSDOT should address congestion on the same priority level as safety, highway maintenance and preserving existing roads and bridges: "They all are compatible, not mutually exclusive."

Sonntag also recommends a single agency to oversee transportation planning in the region, in which he identifies "128 public entities with responsibilities for transportation planning and spending in Puget Sound"--clearly, this number includes general purpose "agencies" such as cities and towns. "One organization needs to coordinate the myriad of transportation planning activities and be positioned to decide what is best for the Puget Sound region [emphasis ours]. Say, a Regional Transportation Commission?