It’s not breaking news to those who must drive to work each day that traffic is horrible – possibly worse than we’ve ever seen. Add a little rain and a fender-bender to the equation and our transportation corridors quickly erode to gridlock.
This creates a tremendous amount of stress and frustration to commuters and has a major impact on our quality of life.
There is no easy fix. The Legislature has failed to address the funding needs of our woefully inadequate highway system. Given the understandable focus on funding state education mandates, it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s painfully clear that Bertha is not the only place where progress is stalled.
In Renton, we continue to see more pressure on our roadway system as residents from Kent, Auburn, Maple Valley and Seattle snake through our community to delay entering our clogged freeway system. A recent study we conducted shows that nearly 65 percent of the cars on our city streets during peak commute hours are just passing through to avoid the freeway, making it difficult in some areas for residents to even get out of their driveways or developments.
Solving this problem won’t be easy and there are no quick fixes. And to add to this dilemma, this region is experiencing an explosion in development to house the thousands of people moving to this area for a host of reasons. Developers are honing in on every piece of vacant land to put in more houses and apartment complexes.
This means more people and more cars. The state, through the Growth Management Act of 1990, requires that cities like Renton take on the population and housing demand instead of the more rural areas. But the Growth Management Act also envisioned investments in improved road capacity and public transportation systems to accommodate that growth. Unfortunately, the state and region have failed to provide these improvements.
We have local residents wondering why the city is allowing more development when nothing is being done to address the already grid-locked streets. It’s a valid question.
Our current zoning requirements were established in 1994 when Renton and most cities were willing to accept the growth and new development, in exchange for the promised transportation improvements. But things have changed in the past 20 years and it’s time to revisit where more development makes sense.
In 1994, the overall assessed valuation of Renton was a little more than $3 billion. Today, the assessed valuation is nearly $13 billion, much of it due to new development throughout the city.
There are plans already being discussed for additional multi-family rental complexes in areas where roadways cannot handle more traffic. On Monday night, the City Council agreed with my recommendation to institute a moratorium on any new multi-family development for the next several months with the exception of two areas – the downtown corridor and the Sunset area in the Highlands — where better access to public transit exists.
We still welcome growth, new jobs and quality development in Renton. But we have a responsibility to make sure that we’re attracting the right type of development, and locating it in the right place where we can mitigate the impacts.
The moratorium is the right thing to do. This will give the Council an opportunity to review all of our current zoning policies so that we can make appropriate changes that ensure we protect, and even improve, the quality of this community for years to come.