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South King County looking at $255 million in transporation funding

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

The Senate Transportation Committee issued its transportation budget proposal Monday that includes a gas tax increase of 15 cents over 12 years and provides $9.1 billion in funding over 16 years to take care of 200 transportation projects statewide.

Gov. Christine Gregoire thanked the bipartisan members of the Senate for their difficult work in finding funding for the laundry list of highways, bridges, intersections, transit services and park-and-ride lots, as well as the big projects, like the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the 520 bridge, that need work statewide.

To provide a revenue stream for transportation projects, the Transportation Committee proposed a 3-cent increase in the gas tax in 2005 and a 2-cent increase in 2006, followed by 1-cent increases for the next 10 years. The budget also provides cities and counties with local-option revenue sources.

Department of Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald said the proposed budget will be “extremely helpful” in conducting transportation projects around the state. “It’s a program that takes a very serious step toward meeting some of the most important of our needs,” he said.

The budget proposal includes funding for several Federal Way-area projects, including $100 million over eight years for the project to improve the triangular convergence of Interstate 5 and state routes 18 and 161 in the southern part of the city.

“That’s a nice chunk,” said Sen. Tracey Eide, D, Federal Way, who sits on the Transportation Committee. “I’ve worked really hard. I think the city is just ecstatic.”

MacDonald agreed the allocation is significant, but added, “The total cost of the Triangle project is substantially larger than that.” He said it will be up to local voters to approve funding for the rest of the project through a regional transportation funding plan.

“Olympia helps to pay down the cost of the project, and people in the central Puget Sound region will have the opportunity to pay for the rest of the project,” he said.

Federal Way Mayor Dean McColgan said the allocation was reasonable, and added that with hoped-for revenue from the federal government, the project should be well on its way.

Other south King County budget items are:

• $50 million over four years for high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Interstate 5 from the Pierce County line to Tukwila;

• $6 million over the next biennium for a new freeway from State Route 167/I-5 to State Route 161;

• $457,000 over the next biennium for environmental work for State Route 167/State Route 509 to State Route 161;

• $50 million over four years for freight congestion relief on State Route 509 and I-5;

• $134 million from 2005 beyond 2015 for concrete rehabilitation in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties;

• $28 million from 2005 to 2011 for concrete on northbound I-5 from Federal Way to Southcenter Parkway; and

• $377,500 over four years for work on State Route 18 and Weyerhaeuser Way to State Route 167.

Minus the projects funded out of the nickel gas tax, Federal Way-area projects amount to about $255 million in the Senate Transportation budget. “We’re adding up,” Eide said.

The committee voted the package onto the Senate floor early last week. Eide promised to keep an eye on it as it made its way through the process. “I’m like a dog on point to make sure nothing disappears overnight,” she said laughing. “I’ve been assured nothing will change.” The whole Senate isn’t expected to vote on the package for some time.

In addition to securing funding for south King County transportation projects, Eide said she also made sure there was a Puget Sound Regional Council seat for Federal Way in the transportation budget.

McColgan was pleased to see the city included with other seat-holding King County cities. “(The Puget Sound Regional Council) is so influential in regional funding and regional needs. It’s the biggest voice in regional transportation needs,” he said. “It’s important as the third-largest city in King County, Federal Way have a voice. Our city plays a pretty big role in transportation needs.”

Late Monday afternoon, Eide said she was happy with the Senate Transportation Committee’s budget. “I’m more than pretty pleased. I’m ecstatic,” she said. “There’s too many years we’ve been set aside.”

McColgan said the package acknowledges the role south King County transportation needs play in the regional plan. “I think south King County projects have always been on the board, it’s just a matter of realizing a number of people are moving south instead of east or north,” he said. “All these projects are integrated to address the whole south end regional transportation system. The package addresses all the issues.”

The House of Representatives released its operating and capital budgets Wednesday, and a transportation budget is expected sometime next week.

In addition to transportation funding, the Senate’s operating and capital budgets released last month included funds for projects or programs in Federal Way.

The Senate operating budget includes $2 million for the Community Services Block Grant to replace cuts in federal funding; $1.2 million for housing programs to offset gaps created by federal cuts, and almost $6 million in Justice Assistance grants for public safety programs.

The capital budget includes $856,000 for a salmon habitat restoration project at Joe’s Creek and $300,000 for the Federal Way Boys and Girl Club’s 2005-07 budget.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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