Gregoire to propose major transportation package

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday she is preparing a new transportation package that would rival the multi-billion-dollar deal she helped approve in 2005.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Gregoire said that she will detail her plan during a budget proposal next week. The 2005 package included a 9.5-cent gas tax increase and other revenues that were slated to total $7 billion over the span of 16 years.

Gregoire says there are great needs to fund basic maintenance of the Washington’s transportation infrastructure. The state is also looking to pay for major projects such as the Columbia River Crossing in Vancouver, the 520 bridge in Seattle and the North Spokane Corridor.

The Democrat hadn’t settled on how the projects will be funded. Gregoire said she’d be having a meeting on Wednesday to discuss possible funding options for a transportation package, and she said a gas tax is in the mix.

“You can’t take that off the table,” she said, noting that there a limited number of places you can look for transportation money. “The only things that give you a decent amount of money are things like the gas tax.”

A spokesman for Gov.-elect Jay Inslee wouldn’t say he supports Gregoire’s proposal.

“We are working on a number of things, including a legislative agenda,” said spokesman Sterling Clifford. Inslee said during the campaign that he would veto tax increases but indicated that he would support asking voters to approve a transportation package with revenues.

Gregoire said that her conversations with Inslee have included discussions about the state’s transportation needs.

“A lot of people want a transportation package,” she said. “I’ve really focused on that in my conversations with him.”

Gregoire said that she would have a proposed transportation budget to release alongside her general budget next Tuesday. She said that while all of the road projects are important, she stressed that any transportation package is “going to have to be dominated by maintenance and operation.”

The 2005 gas tax package that Gregoire helped usher into law helped provide funding for more than 200 projects around the state, including cash for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, money to replace bridges and projects targeted at fixing congestion.

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