Gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi would push for an eight-lane bridge across Lake Washington, not impose tolls until the bridge is completed and add lanes to Interstate 405 between Bellevue and the Maple Valley Highway.
“Our state is experiencing a transportation crisis that is impacting our quality of life and hindering economic growth,” Rossi said at a news conference Tuesday in Bellevue. “Olympia needs a new vision.”
The price tag for these and other improvements across the state: $15 billion.
Rossi wants the state to use large pontoons for the bridge across Lake Washington that can accommodate eight lanes in the future. He also wants flat tolls, which he says would be $1.54 for a one-way crossing. He also doesn’t want them imposed until 2014, when the bridge is completed, and would them to be removed in 2054 when the bridge is paid for.
The plan now under consideration by the state would have variable tolls depending on congestion. Also, the tolls could be imposed before bridge construction begins.
“I don’t think the public will stand for it,” Rossi said of drivers having to pay tolls and still be struck in traffic. “Nor should they.”
Rossi added that he wouldn’t impose tolls on Interstate 90, reasoning that it would cost drivers more in gas to drive over to I-90 than it would to pay for the toll on 520.
Rossi also wants to change the way transportation projects are paid for in the state. Now, transportation money comes from the state gas tax. Instead, Rossi wants to dedicate about 40 percent of the sales tax collected on sales of new and used cars to transportation projects. He would eliminate the sales tax on transportation projects, thus funneling more money into the projects themselves.
In all, Rossi’s plan targets nine statewide projects for congestion relief. In addition to the 520 bridge and widening of I-405 between Bellevue and Renton, Rossi would put money into:
• State Route 167 (Valley Freeway) extension and improvements.
• US-2 corridor improvements.
• SR-9 corridor improvements.
• Widening State Route 509 to Interstate 5.
• A highway crossing the military bases in Pierce County.
• Replacing and improving the Columbia River bridge.
• SR-395, the north Spokane corridor.
He said the projects should start within four years and be completed in 12 years.
Regarding I-405, Rossi wants to add an additional north and southbound lane from I-90 to downtown Bellevue, two additional lanes in both directions from SR-169 (Maple Valley Highway) to I-90, and a transit/HOV direct-access ramp at North Eighth Street in Renton. He also wants HOV lanes opened up to all drivers at non-peak times.
Rossi, a Republican who is running for governor in this fall’s election for the second time in an expected showdown with Governor Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, said his “vision for transportation is rooted in freedom and the ability of people to make good choices for themselves. By contrast, the incumbent believes government needs to force people out of their cars.”
Rossi also encourages overall cleaner transportation through several green transportation initiatives:
• Eliminating sales tax on purchases of hybrid, electric and alternative-fuel vehicles for the next 10 years.
• Converting state government vehicles to hybrid, plug-in electric and alternative-fuel cars by 2015.
• Dedicating $200 million to eliminate salmon blockages from 1,676 culverts on state highway projects statewide.
Rossi said congestion is putting the state’s economy at risk by turning some businesses away.