Transportation funds over the next decade will be tied to jobs,
jobs, jobs, County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido says, relaying a
message from Gov. Gregoire.
Garrido was one of 31 people Gregoire selected to her Connecting Washington Task Force to develop a 10-year funding strategy for the state’s transportation system and present it to the 2012 Legislature.
“The whole time through, we talked about economic development — maintaining jobs and strengthening the economy,” Garrido said of the group’s five meetings.
The other consistent theme was preserving what we have, Garrido said last week.
The task force had to choose whether it thought the state needed $10 billion, $20 billion or $30 billion to get through the decade. It went with $20 million, and developed a menu of options to raise it.
Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond handed out a state map to the group with job clusters shown as yellow dots. The transportation money will be going to connect the dots and improve freight corridors. There weren’t many dots on this side of Puget Sound.
At a local forum Garrido sponsored Thursday, the group agreed Kitsap must work with neighbors Mason, Jefferson and Clallam counties. What are the region’s industries? Tourism? Boat manufacturing? Ecology? Where do we put our yellow dots.
Garrido said we weren’t supposed to be thinking about individual projects or focusing on our own area. It was hard not to. You wonder what we’re going to get out of the deal. Because our traffic’s not as bad as the east side, will we get our fair share? Of the projects mentioned in the $20 million package, none were in Kitsap, though there was $175 million for a 144-car ferry that would probably benefit us. The ferry is considered preservation because it would replace a really old one.
We have a perfect example of what we don’t want our area to be. Unlike the I-5 corridor, we have to stay ahead of growth.
Gas tax revenues are dwindling. Most of it goes to specific projects. Any that’s left I would use to maintain our existing transportation system. I doubt that it’d be enough. Then if people want to add capacity or go faster, they can pay a toll. That’s the ultimate user fee, even more than the gas tax because it’s tied to a particular project. I hated the toll when they put it on the Narrows Bridge. It costs my family nearly $2,000 a year, and it’s only going to go up. But it beats sitting in traffic a half hour or more each way, not knowing when you’re going to get somewhere, wasting time, polluting.
The state is studying just about every major road east of Puget Sound for tolls — the I-5 express lanes, 405, 509, 167 extension. It’s going to happen. One transponder will work for them all.
Over here, when they widen Hood Canal Bridge to four lanes, there’ll be a toll. The Belfair Bypass is the deemed one of the most important if not the most important project in our area. It’d be new capacity, so should be tolled. There’s not enough traffic to pay for it, though, so I don’t know how you’d handle those situations.
Garrido said the governor was interested in the idea of paying for transportation maintenance and operation with a monthly fee, like a water bill.
“It’s a new world out there,” Garrido said, “and we’re helping the public understand that right now. The public’s going to have to recognize we have to make choices. Things are changing, now we have to change.”