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Transportation, from far away

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When arguing about transportation, about highways and bridges and other expensive necessities, sometimes it comes down to urban vs. rural, city vs. country, west vs. east. Cities have the gridlock, the choke points, the trains and buses and megaprojects. The argument is this: Investing in urban infrastructure to make transportation more efficient benefits not just the cities, but the entire state, for toward cities all commerce flows.

That is absolutely true. Tie up traffic on I-5 and part of the cost comes out of pockets hundreds of miles distant. Our products are stuck in the jam and our businesses pay for the delay and our customers are kept waiting. It’s a very tough sell, however, to convince someone gassing up in Coulee City that they should pay 11 cents a gallon for a bridge across Lake Washington or a tunnel under Seattle that might take 20 years to dig, or to subsidize commutes for people who make more in a week than they do in a month. There is self-interest at work, everywhere. It’s why in Washington, where gas tax increases are sometimes an economic necessity, they are so very hard to pass. City votes aren’t enough. The faraway people, some of them, have to agree to tax themselves.

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