Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Washington Legislature Approves Transport Package

By Mark Edward Nero

With the passage of two final bills in the House of Representatives on July 10, the Washington State Legislature has completed work on a 16-year, $16.2 billion statewide transportation package that includes $1.85 billion for the Puget Sound Gateway.

The package covers completion of State Route 167, which the state began planning in the 1970s and started construction in the 1980s, only to see it stall in the 1990s. Washington ports, business and community leaders have long advocated for funding to complete SR 167 in Pierce County, as well as State Route 509 in King County, which is also supported in the package.

The Washington State Department of Transportation estimates a completed SR 167 could fuel job growth to the tune of $10.1 billion.

“Washington farmers, manufacturers and businesses of all sizes need an efficient transportation system to reach global markets,” Port of Seattle Commission co-President Courtney Gregoire said in a prepared statement. “This package means jobs and economic development across our state, and we thank our senators and legislators for recognizing the need to invest in transportation infrastructure.”

According to studies commissioned by the Port of Seattle and cities of SeaTac and Des Moines, the completion of SR 509 allows for development of more than five million square feet of office, retail and commercial space totaling nearly $700 million in new construction.

The transportation package also included a number of other investments to move cargo faster to and from the ports, including improvements on Interstate 5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and on Interstate 90 in Snoqualmie Pass. In total, the state is investing nearly $3.25 billion in projects servicing the Puget Sound gateway.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who submitted the transportation investment package in December, has scheduled a bill signing ceremony for the bill, set for 3:30 pm Wed., July 15 at the University of Washington’s Conibear Shellhouse, 3896 Walla Walla Rd, Seattle. No RSVP is necessary.