Transportation package failure could cost state more than 11.5 cents per gallonon March 12, 2014 @ 7:18 am (Updated: 7:43 am - 3/12/14 )
The legislature is going to adjourn without passing the big transportation package that, among other things, would have raised the money to finish the west approach of the 520 bridge, and added more transit during rush hour.
It would have raised the state gas tax by 11.5 cents - but it turns out that tax increase wasn't what killed it.
Representative Judy Clibborn of Mercer Island, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, said the problem was that rural districts were philosophically opposed to state money going into transit.
Which is why King County is holding its own roads and transit vote in April and Clibborn said the the rural counties may be in for a rude surprise as a result.
Her message to Snohomish and Pierce Counties: if you want to maintain your roads, you'll have to do what King County is trying to do and raise the money locally. Which means when the rural counties demand a statewide ballot on roads package paid for by a higher gas tax it's highly unlikely western Washington voters are going to support it.
"The real issue is not about the money, it's about whether the state should be supporting transit. Is that a role of state government? And so, it's a philosophical difference, not a budget money issue," Clibborn told KIRO Radio's Dave Ross.
But ultimately, if the wealthy counties go their own way as King County has done, they will get the roads and the transit, and it's the rural counties that are going to be high and dry because the metropolitan voters are not passing a statewide package.
And Clibborn said she's been saying that all along. "I don't understand the rationale about people who represent those small rural areas, and Eastern Washington, which gets so much support from the state on their projects - why this was so important, that they would kill a package that was this good for the state."
Clibborn said she's so heated about the revenue package's failure in Olympia because she thinks it's very bad for the entire state, not just something like the 520 bridge.
"I think that we're going to start to see an erosion of the maintenance and preservation of the existing, which in the long run costs twice to three times more. I think we're going to see projects that don't get completed. We're going to close down the 520 office," she said.
Shutting down the 520 office, she said, doesn't mean that the 520 bridge won't be connected - it will. The Washington State Department of Transportation just won't be able to move on to the next phase of the project until the funding has been identified.
That means the 520 bridge will be three lanes in each direction but it will stop at Montlake.
Which Clibborn said is an issue the residents of the Montlake neighborhood should be all over.
But the other group that will be upset, is the resident of Mercer Island.
"Part of the issue for me is that the only way left to fund (the 520 project) is pushing on the tolling of I-90, which we don't have permission from the federal government to do," Clibborn said. "But if we don't get a revenue package, then the default position is to look at starting to toll I-90 - which I am so against. But I can't come up with any other option. Unless we pass that package."
While Clibborn said she doesn't mind meeting in Mercer Island, she's not exactly looking forward to the conversation that will happen at another community meeting about tolling I-90.
MyNorthwest.com's Alyssa Kleven contributed to this report.
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