New Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy and her top deputy, Kevin Phelps, came in this morning for a conversation with the News Tribune’s Editorial Board. They touched on many subjects, but the most interesting part of the session was her outrage over the short-changing of Pierce County in the governor’s proposed transportation budget.
As our own Joe Turner has revealed, Pierce County projects – including new HOV lanes on I5 and expansion of Highway 167 – have been pushed out for five years or more on the schedule, making it likely that they will never get built. Those are projects promised as part of the voter-approved gas tax increase. In the meantime, it’s full-steam-ahead with the massive viaduct replacement and 520 bridge projects in King County.
McCarthy says see was livid upon seeing the transportation budget and Joe’s article. While she supports the regional vision of her predecessor John Landenburg, she worries that the state’s second largest county hasn’t been forceful enough in advocating for itself.
Phelps likened the politics to the county’s long-standing complaint that it’s become a dumping ground for ex-cons.
“We have to represent Pierce County. We have to go after these dollars,” he said. “We don’t want more than our fair share; we’d just like to hold on to our share.”
McCarthy says she’s building a South Sound coalition to lobby Olympia for the HOV lanes, the Highway 167 expansion and the cross-base highway. Players would include cities and towns in Pierce and South King county, the tribes and the Port of Tacoma. Yes, the county needs to be in line for federal stimulus dollars, she said. But it also needs to make sure it’s getting its money’s worth from the gas tax hike.