Bad traffic costs Washington drivers and businesses more than $1 billion a year.

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THE case for expanding our region’s mass-transit infrastructure cannot be overstated. It is among the best things we can do to attract more jobs, connect major cities and job centers, and improve the air we breathe. As our population continues to grow, the future of our region depends on mass transit playing a critical role getting us to work, school, recreational activities, the airport and back home.

That’s why it is critical that the Legislature grant the Sound Transit board full taxing authority so voters can consider a “Sound Transit 3” ballot measure as soon as 2016.

As traffic gets worse, there is tremendous public demand for expanding the regional light-rail system to reach destinations including Everett, Tacoma, downtown Redmond, Ballard and West Seattle. There is also demand for bus rapid transit on Interstate 405 and expansion of overcrowded express bus routes.

Anything less than full authority for voters to consider $15 billion in new revenue will not be enough to make all of these investments. The state Senate recently sent the House a multimodal transportation package that includes $11.2 billion in funding authority for a Sound Transit 3 measure. While we commend the senators’ work on a bipartisan package and are eager to be part of statewide solutions, this authority level would leave the region without options for funding the projects considered essential in each area of the Sound Transit district, which is home to more than 40 percent of Washingtonians.

Our population has skyrocketed over the past decades, with more people and businesses calling the area home each year — it is expected to grow by another million in the next 25 years. The effectiveness of our transit investments will determine whether our region can continue harnessing its growth to expand economic prosperity, or whether opportunities instead start going to other regions that do a better job of investing in infrastructure.

Being stuck in traffic costs Washington drivers and businesses $1.14 billion per year. Without new investments, travel times between Everett and Seattle could take three times as long in the next two decades, impacting our bottom line and our quality of life.

More mass transit would benefit riders, drivers and freight-movers alike. A light-rail line can move up to 12,000 people per hour in each direction. Compare that to a highway lane that moves as few as 700 vehicles per hour in heavy congestion.

Every commuter who chooses congestion-free light rail is someone who will help stretch our road capacity and reduce Washington’s carbon pollution, two-thirds of which comes from transportation. Light-rail extensions also drive growth to urban centers where people rely less on cars, further reducing congestion and pollution.

The requested funding authority includes the ability for voters to consider a property tax of up to 25 cents for each $1,000 of assessed valuation ($75 annually for a $300,000 house), an additional sales tax of up to a 0.5 percent (50 cents on a $100 purchase) and an additional motor-vehicle excise tax of up to 0.8 percent ($80 annually on a $10,000 vehicle).

Without all three of these revenue sources, including the property tax, we can’t build what the public wants. The infrastructure the region needs will not come without a cost. However, that cost would be compensated many times over by the economic benefits we create by fully connecting the region with mass transit. While the Legislature faces other important funding needs, transportation and Sound Transit 3 must also be addressed this session.

Sound Transit has developed an excellent reputation for delivering major projects on time and under budget. The University Link light-rail station will open in early 2016, six to nine months ahead of schedule and $150 million under budget. Sound Transit is also on track to deliver 30 more miles of light rail in the next eight years.

The great economic success we’ve worked so hard to achieve and the state’s future prosperity rest on continuing mass-transit investments that voters overwhelmingly support. Last December, 70 percent of regional voters in a scientific survey voiced support for a major, regional transit package. The public vote can’t happen without action by the Legislature. We urge lawmakers to grant full taxing authority of $15 billion so Sound Transit can put a measure before voters in November 2016.