GOP 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 I-405 between Bellevue and Renton.
“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 remove them 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 would not impose tolls on I-90, reasoning that it would cost drivers more in gas to drive over to I-90 than it would for 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:
• Highway 167 extension and improvements
• US 2 corridor improvements
• SR 9 corridor improvements
• Widening Highway 509 to I-5
• The Cross Base Highway in Pierce County
• Replacing and improving the Columbia River bridge and
• Highway 395, the North Spokane Corridor
He would start the nine projects within four years and complete them 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 to I-90, and a Transit/HOV direct access ramp at North 8th St. in Renton. He also wants HOV lanes opened up to all drivers at non-peak times.
“My vision for transportation is rooted in freedom and the ability of people to make good choices for themselves,” Rossi said. “By contrast, the incumbent believes government needs to force people out of their cars.”
Rossi also said his plan 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 DOT projects statewide.
“The free market is working quickly to develop hybrid, electric, and alternative-fuel cars,” Rossi said. “My plan is to provide incentives for more people to switch sooner to these clean technologies.”
In other transportation areas, Rossi favors a tunnel to replace Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct and “give that city back its waterfront” and he would add $368 million towards filling the gap in the Ferry Capital Account, used for ferry vessel construction and terminal improvement projects.
Rossi noted that congestion is putting the state’s economy at risk. He said that in a meeting with the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce on Monday he was told businesses won’t come to the area because of congestion.
“We need these projects,” he said. “We have no choice.”