Needed road projects part of new state transportation budget
The transportation budget is categorized by some lawmakers as stripped-down compared to the original ask from Democrats. Senate Transportation Chair Steve Hobbs pushed hard for a $16 billion plan over 10 years. Lawmakers ended-up with a $9.8 billion, which includes over $3 billion for road improvements.
Highlighting the list of funded projects is the I-405 corridor between Lynnwood and Bothell. This would add a lane to the existing express toll lane, matching the toll lanes from Bothell to Bellevue. This section of 405 routinely hits the $10 maximum — almost daily — and the toll lane is usually just as slow as the general purpose lanes.
This is one of the reasons the Legislature chose to combine the bonding of tolling projects on 405 and the soon-to-be-expanded tolling on 167 and 509 from Renton through Puyallup, and into Tacoma, known as the Gateway Project. This allows the state to raise money for these projects faster.
Lawmakers also allowed the change of the benchmarks on tolling success or failure.
The budget also includes $900,000 to start studying the Highway 2 trestle. There was no talk of whether it would be tolled, but the plan is to build a new span, so each span would handle a single direction of traffic. We’re barely into the infancy on this one.
Thirty-five million dollars has been set-aside to start looking at a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River in Vancouver, or at least replacing the one in downtown Vancouver. Clark County and north Portland have grown so much that two bridges no longer meet demand.
There is money to widen Highway 18 between the Issaquah-Hobart Road and the Raging River Bridge. I know the truck drivers who are stuck on Tiger Mountain every day will love this.
The Highway 522/Paradise Lake Road interchange east of Woodinville also got a little love, but not much. The state allocated $100 million for the continued work on fish passages. Washington is under a court-order to replace culverts that block streams and obstruct fish habitats.
There is $500 million for the ferry system. That will go toward hybrid-electric ferries and the improvements at the Mukilteo and Colman Docks.
There are plenty of other projects on the list, including funds for widening I-5 through JBLM, and the north-south freeway in Spokane.
The projects are being funded by the Nickel package, Connecting Washington, and a combination of gas taxes and existing funding resources.