U.S. transportation secretary visits region, gets an earful about gridlock

SEATTLE - The region’s worsening traffic gridlock was a hot topic during a visit Tuesday by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The Obama Cabinet member came to solicit ways the federal government can make things better.  Local leaders said more money would be a good start, including making sure Congress reauthorizes the highway transportation bill that expires at the end of the month.

Foxx admits the feds have been slow to help.

“America has in some ways been sleeping on transportation by not investing at a level commensurate with our challenges,” Foxx said.

He argued the explosive growth and traffic in the Puget Sound region is a trend happening in other parts of the country as well -- people moving into cities, not out of them, like in the past.

Foxx heard from local mayors, who called on the feds to spend more and to spend it more wisely to help end the gridlock in the region.

“Tacoma would be a different city today if we were connected to the airport and to Seattle by public transportation that is super fast and efficient,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland.  “I think about the people who live in my city and have to commute to Seattle for the jobs that pay better.”

Foxx said he will be taking what he learned here and incorporating it into a final report about what we the feds need to do over the next 30 years to ease our – and the nation’s – gridlock.