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Group Sets Priority List For Transit Work

Original Article

Original Article
A group of business, labor and environmental representatives organized by the Discovery Institute asked the Legislature yesterday to make replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and seawall, and the state Route 520 bridge the state’s top priorities for state funds.

To help pay for it, the Transportation Working Group urged lawmakers to pass a 10-cent increase in the gas tax over two years, which along with other taxes would raise $8 billion over 10 years for road and transit projects across the state.

“There are a myriad of needs across this state,” said Transportation Working Group Chairman Doug Beighle, a retired Boeing chief operating officer. “And while the Puget Sound region is prepared to step up and tax itself for a substantial share of our projects, the Legislature must find money for needs in every city and county across this state.”

The Cascadia Center at the Discovery Institute has long had an interest in reforming transportation governance in the region and yesterday said they’ll work with the Legislature to bring that about.

“The governance structure is not working,” said Bruce Agnew, the Cascadia Center’s program director. “There are too many agencies. We have talked specifically about consolidating authority and trying to get to a single point of authority.”

Beighle said it’s important to declare the roads-transit war dead. “We believe this region needs one integrated plan using all modes of transportation if we are to thrive.”

Besides the 10-cent increase in the gas tax, the group also said the Legislature should pass other taxes that could be used to pay for transit.

In addition, the group came out squarely in favor of road tolls, mentioning the viaduct and 520 as well as a proposed high-occupancy toll lane on state Route 167.

Before starting on the viaduct or 520, the group said that improvements need to be made to Interstate 5, Interstate 405 and Route 167 first in order to prevent traffic gridlock created by construction work on 520 and the viaduct.

A “flow chart” released with the recommendations showed $1 billion to $2 billion of work being done on I-405 and 167 between 2005 and 2009, followed by $4 billion for the viaduct from 2009 to 2016, followed by $2.3 billion for 520 between 2016 and 2023.

State Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, also has an interest in reforming governance, last year introducing a bill that would have created an elected four-county council responsible for transportation planning.

Murray said he’d like to see the Legislature pass a state funding package and create a new regional body this year and put the regional taxes on the ballot in 2006.

Of the Transportation Working Group recommendations, Murray said, “It’s ambitious, and it’s going to require business to provide votes on both sides of the aisle.”

Aaron Ostrom, executive director of the environmental group 1000 Friends of Washington, said he is generally happy with the recommendations, but also noted that differences of opinion might arise later when it comes time to get down to details.

Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis said: “Our focus is on getting funding for the viaduct. We’re not really engaging in the governance debate at this time. We just cannot wait on the viaduct any longer.”

Jon Scholes, aide to King County Councilwoman Julia Patterson, who has been active in regional transportation, said the group’s proposals are similar to those made recently by the Puget Sound Regional Council.

P-I reporter Jane Hadley can be reached at 206-448-8362 or [email protected]