Senate transportation plan funds Belfair bypass, provides needed reforms, Sheldon says

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

OLYMPIA… State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said March 2 his vote in favor of a transportation package in the state Senate was not an easy choice, but a necessary one.

“It was a tough decision,” he said. “But for our state to move forward we need improvements to our whole system – ferries, bridges, roads and transit – not just the local projects that will directly benefit our district but also improvements to the backbone highway network that serves our area.”

The $15 billion package approved by the Senate includes $64 million for the Belfair bypass on SR 3. It also funds improvements at the intersection of Lynch Road and Highway 101 in Mason County. The two local projects are part of a broad construction program that includes major highway projects of statewide significance, including the $450 million widening of the Interstate 5 chokepoint at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The package also allocates $1.5 billion for preservation and maintenance statewide and increases the money available for county road projects.

Sheldon noted that the Senate proposal includes a series of reforms that aim to make transportation spending more efficient and effective. Reforms will 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 reforms weren’t easy to negotiate,” he said. “But we had to do it in order to keep faith with the voters, because ultimately they will have to judge the work we do in Olympia this year. I think people across the state want reform, but without a deal on transportation we will never get it. I think the people won.

“I have been on the transportation committees in the Legislature since 1991, when I started in the House, and I have been keenly aware that our infrastructure is not keeping up with population growth, both statewide and in our district. We have dangerous intersections, landslide hazards and other safety issues. We have ignored them too long.”