February 24, 2009 in City, Region

Lawmakers propose back-to-basics plan for road money

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Top House and Senate lawmakers this afternoon unveiled their plan for spending $341 million in federal transportation money that’s coming to the state from President Obama’s economic stimulus plan.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen described the plan as a back-to-basics, fill-the-potholes approach. Rather than building new road, she said, it’s time for Washington to spend money maintaining the system it already has.

“We’re fixing the roof,” she said. “We’re been adding rooms for a long time.”

Locally, it includes $2.4 million for asphalt work on U.S. 395 from the Spokane County line to Loon Lake, and another $9 million to continue that work from Loon Lake to Immel Road.

Another $151 million is slated for the entities — e.g. regional transportation authorities — that oversee local roads. Of that, $78 million goes to Puget Sound, $10 million to Spokane, and $9 million to Vancouver. The remaining $54 million goes to smaller jurisdictions around the state. Another $179 million is destined for transit projects statewide.

Conspicuously absent from the state list: money for mega-projects like Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct or the North Spokane Corridor. (The plan does include millions for work on Interstate 90, however.) Instead, the money’s spent on things like repaving, strengthening cable barriers and adding rumble strips to startle drivers dozing off at the wheel.

Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, said the list was “driven by criteria and not by something you do to pick up votes or make a PR statement.” And Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, noted that billions of dollars in federal grants are also available for projects that didn’t make the proposed list.

Speed and jobs were important, said Rep. Judy Clibborn. The projects are expected to create about 3,300 jobs. Much of the work would start within 90 days.

Still, it’s important to remember that this joint proposal is still just that: a plan. And Gov. Chris Gregoire is one of those people who’d like to see some changes in that list.

“I had requested funding for the Mercer Street and (Seattle’s) Spokane Street projects, and I will continue to work with the chairs to get something included in the Legislature’s final recommendations,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire. “… We need to work together and move forward this year with key projects of statewide significance, from Seattle to Spokane, to keep people and goods moving and put people to work.”


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