Haugen has own ideas for roads

  • By Lukas Velush and Jerry Cornfield / Herald Writers
  • Friday, April 8, 2005 9:00pm
  • Local NewsLocal news

State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen is back in charge of transportation, and it shows.

The proposed Senate transportation budget she wrote calls for spending $480 million in Snohomish and Island counties, including $134 million in her 10th Legislative District.

Haugen, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, released a $9.1 billion, 12-year state transportation budget on Monday with Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester.

The bill would raise gas taxes by 15 cents over 12 years, including 3 cents this summer, 2 cents next summer and then 1 cent a year for the next decade.

The Camano Island Democrat took back the transportation reins when her party regained control of the Senate last fall. Haugen previously served as chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee from 1999 to 2003.

Haugen supporters are happy to have her back in the driver’s seat, saying they appreciate the money she brings back to Snohomish and Island counties.

“I think the transportation budget is very bold,” Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson said.

He said he was thankful there’s $40 million in the budget to finish rebuilding the 41st Street I-5 overpass. He’s even more appreciative that Haugen has taken on the politically charged challenge of raising taxes to finally begin addressing the region’s transportation needs.

The budget won’t solve all the problems, but it’s a large step in the right direction, he said.

Haugen called her bill fair.

“I think I’ve been very modest,” she said, adding that she’s taking “care of people in my district” and “people throughout the state of Washington. I’m really trying to be fair.”

Politics is not absent from the process.

Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington, has opposed raising gas taxes to pay for roads. She represents District 39, which largely gets no money under Haugen’s plan.

“When you’re willing to help solve the problems, it makes a difference,” Haugen said. “If you’re not willing to pay for what you buy, you shouldn’t buy it.”

Stevens isn’t buying Haugen’s logic.

“That’s a bogus argument. I’m already paying taxes – 28 cents worth” for every gallon of gasoline, Stevens said.

“I’m paying, and so are my constituents. They’re feeding money into her budget. The least we can do is to give them a safe route to and from their jobs.”

Other Snohomish County lawmakers are not critical of where Haugen directs the dollars. Like Stevens, they’re concerned by what’s left out – chiefly the lack of money to widen Highway 9.

“They say this budget is built on safety. I don’t think there’s another state highway that is more congested than Highway 9,” said Sen. Dave Schmidt, R-Bothell, whose 44th District includes a major stretch of the road. “If you think it’s bad now, what do you think it will be like in 15 years?”

More money for Highway 9 is also key for Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, but he said Haugen’s proposal to raise the gas tax by 15 cents is too much.

“There’s obviously a tremendous need for projects up here,” said Koster, whose county district overlaps much of Haugen’s in the northwest corner of Snohomish County.

“I have a high regard for Senator Haugen, but they need to think outside of the box,” he said. “They can’t continue to go back to the taxpayers for more money.”

Koster said too much money goes to environmental regulations that require setting aside wetland areas, building elaborate storm-water drainage systems and other environmental restrictions. Such projects are eating up as much as 40 cents of every transportation dollar spent, he said.

Lawmakers want to be sure their districts and their counties receive a fair share of the transportation dollars. Their demand for equity may spell trouble in passing the plan as now proposed.

“Everybody is saying King County gets so much more,” Haugen said, noting that a majority of the $9.1 billion plan is earmarked for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the Highway 520 floating bridge, widening I-405 and improving I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass.

Equity is an issue, Schmidt said.

Widening Highway 9 from Clearview to Highway 92 north of Lake Stevens would require $430 million, he said. Instead, far more than that will be spent widening I-405 and replacing the Highway 520 bridge in King County.

There’s $50 million in Haugen’s bill for improving a number of intersections on Highway 9 from Clearview to Lake Stevens, but no money for widening. The nickel gas tax hike of 2003 has money for widening the southern portion of Highway 9.

Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, who serves the 39th District, said most of his residents rely on Highway 9 and need a newer and wider Snohomish River bridge.

“With this package, by far the most money goes to those projects in King County, and the rest of the state pays for it,” he said. “We can’t just take all of our eggs and throw them into one basket.”

Reporter Lukas Velush: 425-339-3449 or lvelush@heraldnet.com.

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