Transportation package funds Belfair bypass, boosts highways statewide, Sheldon says

State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

OLYMPIA… A $16 billion transportation package approved by Washington lawmakers Monday evening completes the Belfair bypass in Mason and Kitsap counties, finishes long-delayed road projects, provides needed money for highway maintenance and enacts important reforms, said state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

“Voting for a transportation package is never an easy decision,” Sheldon said. “But this is the most responsible transportation proposal I have seen during my 25 years in the Legislature. We complete what we’ve started, we fix what we already have, and we ratchet down on waste and bloat.”

The package provides $67 million to complete the Belfair bypass for SR 3 – a full buildout for the project accommodating existing interchanges at the Victor Cutoff and Lake Floral Road. It also provides $5 million for safety improvements to the Lynch Road intersection at Highway 101 in Mason County, finishing a job begun the last time the state passed a transportation package, in 2005.

The two projects are a part of a statewide program emphasizing major projects that have been on the books for years and repairs to the existing road network. Major projects include the widening of Interstate 5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the completion of Highway 167 from the Port of Tacoma to Puyallup, and the connection of Highway 509 to I-5.

“We have to remember that our roads locally are part of a statewide network – ferries, roads, bridges and transit,” Sheldon said. “Those of us in who live in the South Sound and Hood Canal area have an interest in making sure I-5 moves smoothly, in preventing traffic jams at Snoqualmie Pass, and even in the completion of the 520 Bridge across Lake Washington. There are few state responsibilities as fundamental as providing for the roads we travel every day, but we just haven’t kept up with the flow of traffic.”

Reforms enacted with the package aim to make transportation spending more efficient and effective. They would reduce the cost of ferry construction, end the siphoning of gas-tax money to the general fund, and streamline the permitting of transportation projects. The Department of Transportation will be required to report publicly on costly goofs. The package also effectively blocks Washington Gov. Jay Inslee from imposing costly low-carbon fuel standards, and it will cut off state funding for the troubled downtown Seattle tunnel project once its current state allocation is exhausted.