Opinion

Transportation is a pressing issue in South King County | Sullivan

There's a lot of buzz out there right now about the possibility of a new transportation package that includes funding for some new projects and completion of projects already under way.

The House of Representatives approved a package late last spring, but the Senate has yet to pass either that bill or an alternative. However, I spent a good part of November and December in multiple meetings with other legislators and Gov. Jay Inslee, working on a plan that will meet the needs of all parts of the state.

Let's face it; the needs are there – especially in our part of King County. There's a lot of focus on the mega-projects north of us, like the Alaskan Way viaduct and the 520 floating bridge. But our end of the county is too often ignored.

Take the Puget Sound Gateway, for example. Completing SR 167/SR 509 will provide a direct link from the Port of Tacoma to Kent – the second largest distribution center on the West Coast. A full 44 percent of trucks leaving the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma are heading in our direction. Additionally, it would provide a much-needed connection for agricultural products moving from the fields and orchards of Eastern Washington to the port for export overseas.

It is estimated that 100,000 vehicles per day will use SR 167 once it's done, significantly decreasing traffic on I-5 and improving safety. Trucks must use surface streets through neighborhoods to get to Kent, and the accident ratio on the non-freeway section of the route are 20-70 percent higher than the statewide average for similar roads.

What about jobs? Experts believe that a completed SR 167 could fuel job growth by $10 billion or more if the Port of Tacoma expands its international cargo operations – something it plans to do if there are improved connections to move freight to the docks.

Additionally, the construction of that six-mile stretch between Puyallup and Tacoma (originally included in the highway's design 30 years ago, by the way) would generate nearly 950 direct jobs and 2,000 indirect jobs per year of construction.

The transportation needs of South King County have been ignored for too long. It's time – past time, really – for the Puget Sound Gateway to be funded and built. The economic growth of our area is just as important as the economic growth north of us. No other planned project is more valuable in terms of job creation, economic vitality, increased capacity, vehicle and freight mobility and safety.

The package approved by the House did include funding to complete two lanes. We don't yet know how much the Senate will fund, if anything.

What do you think? Should building this highway be a priority for me? How should we pay for it and other projects in our area? What about transit?

I hope you will join me this Saturday between 10:30 a.m. and noon in the Covington City Hall Community Room to discuss these issues further. The address is 16720 SE 271st St., Suite 100 in Covington.

If you can't attend, please send me your thoughts at pat.sullivan@leg.wa.gov I need to hear from you.

Rep. Pat Sullivan represents the 47th Legislative District and serves as majority leader in the state House of Representatives.

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