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Eye On Olympia

Tue., April 15, 2008, 1:48 p.m.

More specifics on Rossi transportation plan…

Saying that key transportation chokepoints are "a foot on the air hose of the Washington economy," Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi's 30-year, $15 billion plan includes:

·Hwy 520, Evergreen Floating Bridge

·Widening of I-405, Renton to Bellevue

·US 2 Corridor improvements

·SR 9 Corridor improvements

·Hwy 167 extension and improvements

·Widening Hwy 509 to I-5

·The Cross Base Highway in Pierce County

·Replacing and improving the Columbia River bridge

·and Hwy 395, the North Spokane Corridor.

Rossi, who will talk about his plan tomorrow in Spokane, said that local residents shouldn't be asked to pay higher taxes for the long-planned North Spokane Corridor. He wants to spend $2.2 billion (in 2007 dollars) of state money to build the 60-mile-an-hour highway from I-90 to U.S. 395 at Wandermere, including half a dozen interchanges and a six-lane collector system along I-90.

Rossi said he wants to eliminate the sales tax on hybrid, electric and alternative-fuel vehicles for the next decade and have the state motor pool filled with those types of vehicles by 2015.

He also wants to spend $200 million on clearing the way for fish to get through nearly 1,700 state-owned culverts statewide. It would open up more than 2,300 miles of potential salmon habitat, he said.

Other elements: he would put $500 million toward 27 "unfunded, underfunded or delayed" projects and put another $368 million into the account that pays for ferry construction and ferry terminals.

Where would all this money come from?

·40.2% the state sales tax on new and used vehicles will be dedicated to transportation projects. (Total: $7,711 million)
·The elimination of state sales tax on transportation projects. (Total: $2,433 million. NOTE: This savings would be shaved from the cost of projects.)
·Half of the current and future eastside subarea equity Sound Transit surplus would go to HOV projects on the eastside of Lake Washington.(Total: $690 million)
·Tolls on the 520 bridge to begin once the bridge is completed in 2014. Tolls will cost $1.54 one-way (2007$) and provide $721 million in revenue.

Rossi notes that his plan wouldn't require a tax increase "and through the responsible use of tax dollars, we will protect education, health care, and all of the other vital services that we must continue to provide.”

But the two sales tax proposals would strip about $10 billion from the state's general fund, which pays for schools, health care and other state services. That's a huge hit, and that's why budget writers have long fended off efforts to tap the general fund for transportation work.

Rossi argues that his plan would take less than half the money from state sales taxes on new
and used vehicles, and that it simply makes sense to steer some of this transportation-related tax money back into the system.

Here's a link to the full plan.

UPDATE: The liberal-leaning advocacy group Fuse has weighed in on the plan, which director Aaron Ostrom calls "a recycled 1950s-style freeway construction bonanza with a twist. The twist is that he's financing it by diverting funding from schools rather than with gas taxes."

The group is unhappy that the plan focuses so heavily on roads, with no funding for public transit. And it's absurd, Ostrom says, to divert money from the general fund at a time when budget analysts are predicting a $2 billion shortfall in the next state budget.

"If you like traffic and political gridlock," Ostrom said, "this is the plan for you."

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