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Transportation package vote delayed to '05
By ERICA HALL
The Regional Transportation Investment District executive board has decided not to send the $13 billion, tri-county list of transportation projects to voters in November, planning instead to hold off until spring or even fall 2005.
The board made its decision after polls indicated voters have mixed feelings about some of the projects and some of the funding provisions, said Federal Way City Councilwoman Jeanne Burbidge, who sits on the South County Area Transportation Board.
King County's share of the Regional Transportation Investment District's $13 billion proposal came to $7.3 billion, and included $1 billion for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, $1 billion for State Route 520, $1.9 billion for Interstate 405, $820 million for the Interstate 405/State Route 167 interchange, and $900 million to finish State Route 509 improvements to Interstate 5, among others.
The proposed funding package included a .2 percent sales tax increase, a $75 vehicle licensing fee, a 2.8-cent local option gas tax, a .3 percent motor vehicle excise tax and a .1 percent tax transfer from Sound Transit.
In putting off the popular vote, executive board members are hoping to kindle more support from the state and federal governments next year.
The board's decision affects Federal Way's triangle project to improve the high-accident convergence of Interstate 5, State Route 18 and State Route 161. But Burbidge said delaying it up to a year shouldn't be detrimental to the project.
Triangle design plans include flyover ramps and interchanges to smooth the exits and entrances for drivers leaving one freeway for another, or leaving the freeways to come into Federal Way.
Design and environmental work on the Triangle project is finished, but it still needs $200 million for construction. In earlier drafts of the Regional Transportation Investment District proposal, the board only allocated $100 million for Triangle construction, which city officials and business leaders protested until the executive board's recent decision to postpone the whole package.
Burbidge said the board's decision was probably a wise one.
"I do think it makes sense to be careful before you put it to the voters," she said, but added she shares the frustration of other city officials who want the project lined up for construction.
"It is needed," Burbidge said, listing safety, economic development and freight mobility concerns. "I'd love to see it on the road to construction. We'll just have to bide our time and continue to look for alternative sources of funding."
Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org