Bridge money part of ballot issue
A $14.5 billion roads package headed for the November ballot would help repair or replace a few of the region's vulnerable bridges ...
Seattle Times staff reporter
A $14.5 billion roads package headed for the November ballot would help repair or replace a few of the region's vulnerable bridges — including the Highway 520 floating bridge.
But most of the cash would be earmarked for expanding highways and would not touch other local bridges in need of repair.
The "Roads & Transit" package, which merges roads spending with a package for Sound Transit expansion, was touted by supporters Thursday as a way for the Puget Sound area to take care of vital infrastructure and avoid a tragedy like the collapse of a freeway bridge in Minneapolis.
"It's a very good argument of why people need to vote for it," said state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee. "I look at that [the bridge collapse] and think 'earthquake in Seattle.' "
The plan, which will be on the ballot in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, contains $1.1 billion toward replacing the 520 bridge with a $4.4 billion, six-lane span.
Officials would combine the ballot-measure money with gas taxes and tolls, but the total funding picture is unclear because tolls have not been set and the bridge has not been designed.
The ballot measure also would provide $110 million toward replacement of the South Park Bridge, on 16th Avenue South, which is considered one of the worst-rated bridges in the region.
No money is included to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct — damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. The state has set aside about $2.8 billion in gas taxes and future federal grants toward a possible elevated replacement, but officials have not agreed whether to build a new elevated highway.
At least one major city bridge, Seattle's Magnolia Bridge, is not covered by the fall ballot measure. It also was not funded by new city taxes approved last year.
Opponents of the ballot package argue it should not be sold to voters as a bridge-safety plan.
Mike O'Brien, chairman of the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club, said it contains important safety projects, such as the South Park Bridge. But as a whole, he said, the package would expand roads and lead to more greenhouse-gas emissions at a time when the state ought to be fighting global warming.
"They are adding 150 miles of new single-occupancy highways in a time when we need to be going in the opposite direction," O'Brien said.
The roads plan would be funded by a sales-tax increase of 1 cent per $10 purchase and an annual car-tab tax of $80 per $10,000 of vehicle value. The road projects would cost $6.9 billion in 2006 dollars, or $14.5 billion including inflation, cash reserves, finance costs and overhead throughout the 20-year construction period.
The light-rail portion of the ballot measure would cost an estimated $10.8 billion for construction and trains, in 2006 dollars, or more than $23 billion through 2027 when financing and interest costs are included. The plan would expand the light-rail line by 50 miles.
Staff reporter Mike Lindblom contributed to this report.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or email@example.com.
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