Senate Committee packed for hearing on transportation package

People lined up in Olympia yesterday to participate in a Senate hearing  on a bipartisan transportation proposal announced last Thursday. The $15 billion package does a number of good things. Most notably, it addresses our highest priority by investing in preservation and maintenance of our roads and bridges and improving key economic corridors.  As The Boston Consulting Group outlined last year, without new money, 60 percent of roads will be in poor condition or worse by 2026. Is that a system any of us want?

Our hope is that the Senate Transportation Committee will move the package quickly and the full Senate can soon have an opportunity for debate and a vote. You can weigh in on the bill directly through this online tool.

Meanwhile, here’s a flavor about what editorial pages have been saying about the package and what it does…

From The News Tribune (Tacoma):

It would invest billions in uncorking transportation chokepoints. The worst of these are the uncompleted gaps in state Routes 167 and 509, which threaten the state economy by throttling freight movement in and out of the ports of Tacoma and Seattle. Roughly $1.9 billion would finally complete those highways and improve interchanges on Interstate 5, getting trucks off the freeway, easing commutes, and greasing the shipment of freight through the Kent Valley.Bottlenecks would be widened on I-405, Snoqualmie Pass, the North Spokane Freeway and the bumper-to-bumper stretch of I-5 that runs past Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The Evergreen Point Floating Bridge’s link to Seattle would be completed.Transit projects, ferries, salmon passages and a slew of local road improvements would also be funded.

From The Spokesman Review:

The magnitude of the new package, incorporated in eight separate bills, reflects Washington’s challenge. Roads in every corner of the state cannot efficiently carry traffic. Although Puget Sound-area highways would get – and need – the bulk of the funding, Eastern Washington would do extremely well. For Spokane, the big must-do remains the North-South Corridor, ticketed for $862 million to finally close the connection to Interstate 90. At least eight other area projects would get funded.

From The Herald (Everett)…

…a transportation package announced Thursday by a bipartisan group of senators appears to be a model of comprise and, just as importantly, outlines about $570 million in transportation projects for Snohomish County, far greater than the $82 million included in the governor’s budget.

From The Columbian (Vancouver):

The state Senate has proposed a $15 billion transportation package to make it easier for Washingtonians to get around and transport goods and services. In other words, they have proposed a plan for investing $15 billion in the state’s economy, recognizing that crumbling infrastructure has very real consequences when it comes to jobs.

From The Yakima Herald:

Legislators always want to be seen as working for their districts, which leads to the danger of a Christmas tree of goodies for everyone across the state. A smarter approach is to set priorities that would benefit the state’s economy as a whole, and we continue to argue that projects improving freight mobility contribute most to state job growth and offer the best return on investment. Among those that are in the Senate proposal are widening Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass and easing access to the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Improvements that move goods also will help move people, a priority for an increasingly congested Pugetopolis.

And, in conclusion, again from The Spokesman Review:

The state must act while gas prices are low and the federal government dithers over raising cash for the highway trust fund. Doing nothing ensures gridlock on critical roads and a missed opportunity to boost Washington businesses. A recent study estimated a $7 billion investment in transportation would yield a fivefold return to our economy over 30 years. Imagine doubling that with the Senate proposal. Time to get going.