Lawmakers OK 11.9-cent gas tax hike in transportation package

OLYMPIA — The public got its first look Monday at the details in a $16.1 billion transportation revenue package paid for by increasing the gas tax 11.9 cents a gallon in the next two years.

And it looks pretty good for Snohomish County.

There is roughly $670 million allotted for road, transit and ferry projects in Snohomish County in the plan that spans 16 years.

“There is a lot of stuff that needs to be done,” said state Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett.

If approved and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, the package provides $142 million to build a new bridge on Highway 9 over the Snohomish River.

Money also is earmarked for an offramp on Highway 526 at Hardeson Road near the Boeing Co. complex, improving the intersection of Highway 9 and State Route 204 in Lake Stevens and expansion of the bus rapid transit service offered by Community Transit and Everett Transit.

There is money for safety projects on U.S. 2 between Snohomish and Skykomish and a widening of State Route 531 near the Arlington Airport.

And in Marysville, this package will pay for a new freeway interchange at the south end of the city and for reconstructing the I-5 interchanges at 88th Street and 116th Street to make way for wider overpasses.

State Sen. John McCoy, D-

Tulalip, who represents Marysville and Everett, said he’s been working on the 116th Street project for 18 years.

“We were able to display the need for these projects,” he said.

The state Senate approved parts of the package Monday.

Overall, the package spends about $8.8 billion on new projects, big chunks of which will go to complete the Highway 520 floating bridge and widen I-405 from Lynnwood to Renton.

There’s also $1.4 billion for maintaining existing roads and $602 million for Washington State Ferries, which among other projects would build a new 144-car vessel and construct a new terminal in Mukilteo. And nearly $1 billion is penciled in for buses, bike paths, sidewalks and other forms of public transportation.

To pay for it all, the state’s gas tax would climb 7 cents on Aug. 1 and another 4.9 cents on July 1, 2016. This will boost the gas tax from 37.5 cents per gallon today to 49.4 cents.

Money also is generated from increasing registration fees by $15 to $35 a year depending on the weight of the vehicle, plus a new $5 fee on each studded tire sold in the state.

Another $518 million is counted on from sales tax collected on new transportation projects. As written, that money will be transferred from the general fund into the account created for this package.

Sells said he knows many people will be upset by the gas-tax hike but it’s necessary.

“If they want stuff fixed, it costs money. If they want something new to be done, it costs money,” he said. “I’d like to do it for free. You have to pay for it.”

Community Transit leaders are pleased because after six years of trying, state lawmakers are granting them the ability raise additional dollars for bus service with the approval of voters. Under the bill, the transit district can increase its share of the local sales tax by up to three-tenths of a penny.

Martin Munguia, spokesman for the district, said in an email that the board will have until Aug. 4 to make a decision on proposing a measure for the November’s ballot.

New funding could help add more trips on current routes starting next year, he said. Also, more dollars would fully fund the operation of a second Swift bus rapid transit line between Canyon Park and Paine Field/Boeing as soon as 2018 and to expand service to new places on new routes, he said.

Under this proposal, Sound Transit would be able to raise up to $15 billion from voters to extend light rail service to Everett and Tacoma. Sound Transit wants to ask voters in 2016 to fund the expansion with hikes in the local property and sales taxes, and car tab fees.

Senate Republicans wanted to limit the authority to $11 billion. As part of the compromise, Sound Transit will be required to send $518 million of its sales tax collections to the state between 2020 and 2031 to offset the same amount that is getting diverted to road projects.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; cornfield@heraldnet.com

County projects

State lawmakers are considering a plan to spend $16.1 billion on transportation improvements in the next 16 years. Here are some of the projects in Snohomish County funded in the package:

-$142 million for a new bridge on Highway 9 over the Snohomish River

-$69.5 million to construct improvements to the intersection of Highway 9 and State Route 204

-$68.6 million to cover the costs of relocating the Mukilteo ferry terminal

-$50 million to rebuild the interchange of I-5 and Highway 529 in Marysville

-$50 million to reconstruct the I-5 interchanges at 88th Street and 116th St. NE in Marysville

-$47.2 million for a new off ramp on Highway 526 at Hardeson Road near the Boeing Co. complex

-$39.3 million to widen Highway 531 to four lanes near the Arlington Airport

-$34.4 million to add a northbound lane on I-5 from Marine View Drive to Highway 528

-$17 million for safety improvements on U.S. 2

-$10 million for the Swift II bus rapid transit system

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