In 2006, Washington’s legislature spelled out a logical and egalitarian transportation strategy. It’s exactly what’s needed to maintain economic competitiveness while simultaneously reducing congestion and the negative effects of cars.

Here’s an excerpt of the goals:

(i) Reducing drive alone trips; (ii) reducing delay per person and delay per unit of goods; and (iii) improving levels of service that improve system performance for all transportation users.

Here are the tools authorized to achieve those goals:

Strategies may include, but are not limited to: funding for increased transit service hours, trip reduction incentives, nonmotorized mode support, and ridematching services.

Sounds great, right? There’s only one problem: it’s a temporary mitigation strategy to be used during construction. It only applies during the time and places where regional road transportation projects are being built. Just as soon as that new highway is complete, the obligation to reduce traffic—rather than accommodate it — evaporates.

Just so, transportation planners will have to mitigate traffic during the destruction of the Seattle viaduct—no matter what replaces it. Given that we have to try to reduce traffic congestion in any scenario, why can’t we always focus on moving people and freight by the most efficient and cost-effective means? Why is our default option simply building more roads instead of pursuing the sensible objectives laid out in the legislature’s mitigation strategy?

To my mind, the mitigation requirements have the right approach, even if it’s mostly a side-show for now. I just hope it soon takes center stage.