Inside Opinion

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Tag: state Route 509

June
25th

No excuses on state transportation vote

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

The Legislature must pass an operating budget before it calls it quits for the year. That’s a constitutional necessity. But it must also pass a transportation package. That’s an economic necessity.

With the special session winding down, the prospects of the $10 billion highway-and-transit proposal remain precarious. Lawmakers can’t let it fail. The consequences of its passage — or its rejection — are literally incalculable.

Aside from a festering dispute over a new bridge between Vancouver and Portland, the projects in the package enjoy broad support.

The most important of them, the Puget Sound Gateway, would break open freight chokepoints by extending state Route 167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma, and by extending state Route 509 from the SeaTac area south to Interstate 5.

If those chokepoints stay in place, they could ultimately turn the ports of Tacoma and Seattle into maritime backwaters as Pacific Rim shippers and manufacturers shift their cargoes to competing routes free of chronic congestion.

Other regions have big stakes in this measure:

• It would earmark $175 million to rebuild I-5 interchanges near Joint Base Lewis-McChord to ease traffic jams that paralyze the freeway on a regular basis.

• It would widen and add lanes to Interstate 405 to relieve congestion in that corridor.

• It would extend highway and rail corridors in Spokane, expanding that area’s freight-shipping capacity. It would also widen Snoqualmie Pass to improve its safety and ability to handle large trucks.

Freight mobility isn’t a particularly sexy issue, but the ability to efficiently move goods — apples, jet components, electronics, wheat — is vital to Washington economic future. All of these projects would help move people efficiently as well.
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May
25th

SR 167: A job-creating bridge waiting to be built

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Washington is getting a taste of what it’s like to lose a critical stretch of a major highway.

Before it collapsed Thursday, the Skagit River Bridge on Interstate 5 carried roughly 70,000 vehicles a day, more than 8,000 of them trucks. Its collapse severed the main artery that links the economy of the Puget Sound region to Vancouver, B.C.

The disruption shows how one highway fracture can choke the movement of people and goods hundreds of miles away. But Washington has already suffered another – less visible – highway failure that’s done far more damage in recent decades.

Helicopters with camera crews may not be circling it, but the unfinished six-mile gap between state Route 167 and the Port of Tacoma is also strangling commerce and jobs. It’s the economic equivalent of a ruptured freeway no one bothered to fix.

SR 167, which now runs from Interstate 405 in Renton to the Puyallup area, was always supposed to turn west and connect to Interstate 5 and the port.

The extension has been planned for more than 30 years. Right of way has been purchased, environmental preliminaries are complete, and much of the design work is done.

But the concrete isn’t there – which means that Pacific Rim exporters cannot smoothly move their freight past the port, and Washington farmers and manufacturers cannot smoothly move their goods to the port.

The obstruction has been costing the state tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. Increasingly, it is tempting maritime shippers to look for alternative routes to Chicago and other big inland markets.

Six hundred miles north of here, the once tiny but rapidly expanding terminal at Prince Rupert – the location of North America’s deepest ice-free harbor – has suddenly emerged as a ferocious competitor for Puget Sound shipping. One of the Canadian port’s key advantages is an unobstructed railway corridor to the heart of the United States.
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April
13th

A slimmed-down, job-rich Puget Sound Gateway

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

It’s been a while, but both political parties in Washington once understood the connection between highway investment and jobs. This is the time to revive that bipartisan vision, given what the Puget Sound Gateway Project promises to do for payrolls both west and east of the
mountains.

The Gateway would extend state Route 167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma; it would also extend state Route 509 south from Sea-Tac Airport to Interstate 5.

It would build highway interchanges, connect SR 167 with SR 509, multiply the connections with Interstate 5 and produce a seamless highway corridor through the Kent Valley to the South Sound, then north again to the economic engines of King County.

The result: congestion relief throughout the region and speedier shipping from the ports of Tacoma and Seattle.

The cost – roughly $1.8 billion – sounds steep. But the SR 167 segment alone would create an estimated 80,000 permanent jobs, many of them high-paying. The SR 509 segment, when complete, would produce a corresponding windfall of employment.
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