Governor’s transportation budget gives Snohomish County short shrift

Looking at the various projects outlined by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this month in his proposed transportation budget, you can understand why officials in Snohomish County are holding the box upside-down and thumping on the bottom in disbelief to see if anything more might fall out.

Inslee’s $12.2 billion transportation project recommends:

  • $3.9 billion for King County projects, including $1.4 billion to complete the Highway 520 floating bridge between Seattle and Bellevue and $1.3 billion for improvements to I-405 between Bellevue and Renton.
  • $1.1 billion for transportation projects in Pierce County; and
  • $432 million for transportation work in Spokane County.

Meanwhile for Snohomish County — not counting a pool of $600 million to $650 million that Inslee left for legislators to allocate — the governor sets aside $81.8 million. Of that, $45.4 million is for a new interchange in Everett on Highway 526 at Hardeson Road and $3.4 million to add a shoulder lane on northbound I-5 between Everett and Marysville. Other interchange and widening projects on county highways were largely ignored as were Highway 9 and U.S. 2.

The reaction among local officials, said Troy McClelland, chief executive and president of Economic Alliance Snohomish County, was, politely put, disappointment. You can see why when you consider Snohomish County’s standing as an engine of the state’s manufacturing sector and take a closer look at the numbers, using statistics from the state’s offices of Financial Management and Employment Security.

King County’s $3.9 billion investment translates to $1,943 per capita, $3,001 per job. Pierce’s $1.13 billion amounts to $1,398 per capita and $3,855 per job. Even Spokane’s $432 million works out to $908 per capita and $1,978 per job.

Snohomish County’s $81.8 million? That amounts to $112 spent on transportation for each resident and $301 for every job, a tenth of the investment per job in King County.

That’s not how you make a transportation investment in a state that relies so heavily on high-tech manufacturing and aerospace. We’ve shared these numbers from the alliance before: Snohomish County is first in the state in the number of manufacturing jobs with 65,000 direct jobs at more than 745 companies. Of those, 47,000 jobs and more than 215 companies are in aerospace. The county is second in the state in technology jobs outside of aerospace.

Previously, after identifying as much as $3 billion in transportation projects, the Economic Alliance outlined $1.067 billion in projects necessary to serve commuters and industry in Snohomish County.

Shortly after the budget was released, the Inslee administration admitted to Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, “We messed up,” Stephanson said. But no one’s expecting a revision to the governor’s transportation budget. What’s next, Stephanson said, is for officials in the county and the Economic Alliance to make their case to legislators. The alliance already has shown around state Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, who will be chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, taking him on a tour of transportation bottlenecks in the county.

If the state wants to see continued growth in manufacturing and in jobs, it has to make infrastructure investments where those businesses, jobs and residents are.

“This isn’t about Snohomish County,” McClelland said. “This is about what’s best for the state.”

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