The Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and the East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition advocated persistently over the past two plus years for a statewide transportation package anchored by an increase in the gas tax. The Eastside needs investments in I-405, SR-520, and I-90, among many other important projects and maintenance and operations needs. The wait for a badly needed transportation package was frustrating for Bellevue and the Eastside and, fortunately, appears to be over.
A final package has not yet been officially voted on, nor has it been published, but the details are generally well understood. A gas tax increase of fewer than twelve cents phased in over a four year period anchors the package. That increase will help fund vital congestion-relieving, capacity-adding projects like $1.3 billion to upgrade I-405, $1.5 billion to complete the SR-520 overhaul, and a variety of other big ticket items, like congestion relief on I-5, I-90, SR-509, and SR-167.
Additionally, the transportation package will provide authority for local governments to raise transportation revenue. The most notable authority will be given to Sound Transit, a regional transit authority with taxing authority in Snohomish, King, and Pierce County. The package will give Sound Transit the authority to ask the voters for $15 billion in funding for Sound Transit 3 (ST3), a ballot measure for voters coming in November of 2016. ST3 would build more light rail service and expand regional bus service, a plan Sound Transit considers critical for a fast-growing and densifying Puget Sound populace.
As the precise details of the transportation package are revealed over the coming days, it is important to remember that Eastside chambers pushed legislators toward this goal by sending repeated emails and calls, hosting events, and publicly testifying countless times to the importance of upgrading our transportation infrastructure and providing relief to commuters and freight-haulers. The public investments outlined in this transportation package are long overdue and will help propel our economy forward.