As we travelled through Washington on the original Dire States tour, we met longshoremen and Port of Tacoma representatives who shared with us the tale of SR-167: the first mile/last mile of goods that come through the port. It’s a 6-mile stretch of road that connects the port to eastern Washington and much of the outside world. In a way, it carries the weight of the region on its shoulders.
When the current highway was designed 30 years ago, that 6-mile stretch was included in the plan, but funding and logistics halted construction. The time may have come to complete the road and provide the region with an economic shot in the arm thanks to comparable transportation bills put forth by both the Washington state House and Senate. The state legislature enters a 30-day special session that will begin on April 29 to negotiate these bills and additional legislation.
Between the two bills, legislators are considering packages ranging from $15.1 – $15.5 billion dollars, funded in large part by an 11.7 cent-per-gallon gas tax increase. Washington is the latest in a line of states to take road funding/growth into its own hands – and follows a trend throughout the country: voters and legislators are willing to look at user fee increases as a method of funding infrastructure projects – especially as fuel and material costs are (relatively) low, and economic gains can be tied directly to the work.