If Snohomish County is going to see more than $81.8 million in projects as the Legislature hammers out a transportation budget, it may take some mending of fences and building of bridges before any roads are improved.
Gov. Jay Inslee was at the Arlington Airport on Wednesday to tour Universal Aerospace, a supplier to Boeing and other aerospace companies, but also to talk with city, county and business officials about the transportation budget.
Previously, we’ve taken the governor to task for a transportation budget that set aside only $81.8 million in transportation projects in the county, when government and business leaders here had done their homework to demonstrate the necessity for a little more than $1 billion worth of work that is crucial to keeping the state’s largest aerospace and manufacturing region vital and growing. That amount also pales in comparison to the $3.9 billion set aside for King County and the $1.1 billion for Pierce County.
We still consider it a gross oversight and were hopeful the governor would acknowledge the county’s needs Wednesday.
Inslee offered no direct explanation to business and government leaders for his light package for the county, but the governor’s willingness to travel to Arlington and meet was a recognition of the importance of the transportation work the county must have, said Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert the day after.
Tolbert prefers conciliation to confrontation, an approach that’s borne at least partly out of her recent experience in working with the state Department of Transportation on a project to widen to four lanes from two Highway 531, which connects the Arlington Airport’s aerospace businesses to I-5. The “practical design” approach brought together business interests and state and local engineers and officials to find economical and practical ways to complete the necessary work. While final costs may depend on the FAA signing off, Tolbert said the state could see significant savings from a project that originally was estimated to cost $69 million but instead might cost as little as $47 million as currently designed.
Building bridges. Mending fences.
It’s something that, depending on who you talk to, may be necessary among public officials and the county’s legislative delegation.
Inslee, in his Arlington meeting, said he believed he had the votes of only seven of the county’s 21 legislators willing to back a funding plan for his transportation package, and he urged local officials to lobby their delegation. The governor didn’t tally who was or wasn’t backing him or explain how he reached that number. Nor did he make a distinction between support for a gas tax or for his carbon tax proposal. Locally, many are puzzled by the governor’s math and think a majority of support is there among legislators to fund the state transportation budget in general and Snohomish County projects in particular.
But if a meeting of minds among legislative, local and county officials can secure a package of transportation projects here, then please, mend those fences, build those bridges.