by DENNIS BOX, Covington Reporter Editor
After a regular session , three special sessions and considerable blood, sweat and tears, the 2015 Legislature closed the chamber doors July 10.
The long and winding budget road that looked for a time to be never ending, concluded with a transportation budget that 47th District Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn said brings funds for numerous projects to Covington and South King County.
The budget kicked in $13.2 million to complete the funding for widening state Route 516 in Covington to five lanes from Jenkins Creek to 185th Avenue Southeast. The project is estimated to cost $15 million and will include widening the Jenkins Creek bridge, streetlights and sidewalks.
The highest price ticket came in at about $24 million for the Covington Connector, which will join SR 516 and SR 18 by extending 204th Avenue Southeast through the Hawk Property development (now known as Lakepointe) connecting to SR 18 at the 256th Street interchange.
Other South King County projects include expansion of I-405 from Renton to Bellevue, SR-18 and I-90 and SR 167 and SR 18 improvements.
Sen. Mark Mullet, 5th District Democrat, said in a release, “Anyone who has driven on Highway 18 over Tiger Mountain during rush hour or spent hours getting home waiting on I-90 knows that we have a congestion problem in our community,. We can’t afford to sit back and watch as our roads get more congested and we lose more time we could be spending with our families.”
Mullet said commuters from the Maple Valley area “funneling on to I-90 from Maple Valley, Snoqualmie, Issaquah and North Bend will soon gain the option of using shoulder lanes to get from Issaquah to Eastgate during rush hour. Shoulder lanes are a cost-effective and timely way to temporarily add more capacity to highways that clog only during certain times.”
Part of the revenue to pay for the projects will come from a 11.9 cents gas tax increase beginning Aug. 1 at 7 cents with full implementation by July 2016.
Fain stated in the release, “Transportation infrastructure was a top priority for me this session in Olympia. After spending almost three years personally negotiating the details of a package I was thrilled when the legislature took final action on the bill Friday morning (July 10)…. A gas tax vote is difficult, but leadership demands making tough choices and our region needed a team of leaders to accomplish this difficult task.”
Fain said the transportation bill, “…includes long-needed reforms to the way our state transportation department operates. With high-profile failures like Bertha and the 520 pontoons, the need for improvement could not be overstated. The legislature agreed to changes that will drive down the cost of ferry boat construction, reduce redundant permits and lengthy regulatory delays, and prioritize congestion relief on our clogged highways among several other significant advances in the way we do business.”
Gov. jay Inslee said in a release the $16 billion, 16-year transportation bill will address, “critical maintenance and safety needs around the state and funds numerous projects to relieve congestion and improve freight mobility.”
Inslee’s release wasn’t all daisies and sugar. He stated the transportation bill contains a poison pill from the Republicans, removing $2 billion from the package if Inslee “implements the clean fuel standard.” Inslee said he signed the bill but, “This creates a tough decision, and I’ll make it after I review all our options.”