Hobbs’ wide-ranging road fix package banks on tax increases
Proposal would accelerate fixes to 522, U.S. 2, Highway 9
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, has drafted a roadmap to quicken area commutes and finish longstanding projects, but funding the plan creates tax increases that will require the buy-in of fellow legislators.
Hobbs’ 10-year, $16.2 billion plan would improve highways including 522, U.S. 2 and state Route 9. Paying for the lengthy to-do list would require a 6-cent additional gas tax, a flat-rate carbon fee and a number of additional funding mechanisms.
After floating the plan at a Jan. 24 hearing, the senator seems cautiously optimistic.
“I was very pleased with the feedback I
received during the hearing. Groups that often don’t see eye-to-eye on other issues, were largely positive on this. That was encouraging,” Hobbs said in a Jan. 31 email.
Hobbs said he was evaluating feedback from committee members and hoped to determine “soon” whether he would introduce the plan as a bill. “It’s way too early” for any predictions on whether such a bill could pass though, Hobbs cautioned in the email.
The local fix-list
Hobbs’ plan would jumpstart two major 522 projects that might otherwise be decades out. It designates $70 million for a new interchange at Paradise Lake Road and $90 million to widen the road between Maltby and the Snohomish River to four lanes.
A $56 million allocation would fund a new spur alignment in Monroe of the U.S. 2 - 522 interchange to Chain Lake Road. It would be the first step to a U.S. 2 Monroe bypass.
Another widening project, for $58 million, would add a northbound lane on state Route 9 between 176th Street SE and state Route 96 (Lowell Larimer Road).
The costliest local construction would be $1.36 billion in state and toll funds used to fully rebuild a new four-lane U.S. 2 westbound trestle, including a rebuild of
the Highway 204/20th Street SE interchange. Drivers would also gain a single lane Snohomish River bridge connecting U.S. 2 westbound to Interstate 5 northbound.
Statewide, the plan would address 50 high priority improvements and 14 preservation projects.
In addition to roads and bridges, the concept includes plenty of funding for fish. About $3.1 billion would go to clearing fish passage barriers statewide along with sums built into the 522 improvements and other projects.
The four-page project list pairs with an eight-page funding breakdown.
An added incentive to legislators is job creation.
“A nonpartisan evaluation of this plan estimates it will create more than 65,000 jobs. Less traffic, a cleaner environment and a whole bunch of jobs. Not bad,” Hobbs said in the Jan. 31 email.
Hobbs’ $16 billion concept relies on about $10 billion in funding from a flat $15 per ton carbon emissions fee and increasing the gas tax 6 cents to 55.4 per gallon.
A similar carbon fee failed in Initiative 1631 just last November, but Hobbs was quoted by KIRO Radio’s My-NorthwestNews that the lack of transparency about how revenues would be spent were the culprit, and his proposal provides the necessary accountability.
Uber and Lyft passengers would pay a share of the bill with a 50-cent per trip fee. Electric car registration fees would rise $200. The state sales tax on bikes, auto part sales and car rentals would all increase by 1 percent.
Those caught breaking the rules on toll and HOV roads would pay an extra $114.
The Enhanced Driver’s License will cost $30 more in the plan, and additional fees based on vehicle weights and new developments would round out the $16 billion package.
“I know there is a concern with funding sources but I’m really hoping the concept becomes a bill” to answer the question: “If not these funding sources than what funding sources,” Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas said in reply to the Tribune. “I strongly feel there are important projects throughout the state that almost four years after Connecting Washington” need to be fixed now.
Connecting Washington, a $16 billion long-term project plan list funded primarily by an 11.9-cent gas tax increase, was approved by the Legislature in 2015.
To review Hobbs’ full draft list of projects, go to www.tinyurl.com/TransProjects and to view the funding breakdown, go to www.tinyurl.com/2019transplan
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