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Washington's transportation crisis requires action now

By PATRICIA MULLEN
Federal Way Mirror guest columnist
May 29, 2013 · 2:56 PM
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Our state is facing a looming problem that has gotten too little attention lately — one we need to act on to create jobs and retain the quality of life that makes this a special place to live.

Our transportation infrastructure and support systems are in serious trouble.  State highways, county roads and city streets are deteriorating. Bridges are in need of repair. Major transportation projects, critical to our economic vitality, are under construction but still only partially funded.

Other long overdue projects that will ease traffic congestion and help move freight through the state are still on the drawing board and lack sufficient funding. Transit agencies have cut service and are facing even more cuts. The ferry system is in desperate need of replacement for our aging boats.

In 2011, the Connecting Washington Task Force, which represents business, local government, labor and environmental interests, developed a 10-year strategy to maintain and improve the state’s transportation system.

The task force’s final report estimated that the state would need to invest approximately $50 billion over 10 years to adequately meet the transportation system needs.

The list of needs is mounting. The longer we wait, the more it is going to cost to correct these problems.

This year is the best opportunity to move forward. A broad coalition of stakeholders — business, labor, environmentalists, local elected leaders — all agree that we need to take action now.

A plan has been introduced this year. The priorities: maintain what we have, protect jobs and our economy, and support transit and local transportation efforts.

The “Connecting Washington” package (HB 1954/HB 1955) has been introduced in the Legislature this year and would make a significant down payment on our problem. The $9.5 billion, 12-year package would make key investments across Washington.

Included in this package are projects that will help ease our transportation problems here in Federal Way. The Gateway Project will help two critical highways, SR 167 and SR 509, into the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle. These projects will increase freight mobility and help create jobs, and will also ease freight traffic along I-5. Funding is also included to complete the “Federal Way Triangle” where I-5, Highway 18 and SR 161 meet.

Our state is literally at a crossroads. We can either do nothing, or we can make a down payment to create and grow jobs and the economy — and more efficiently move people and goods.

The situation won’t improve unless our elected officials in Olympia act this year.

Let’s get this done.

 

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