- About Us
Transportation infrastructure a critical need | Rep. Mark Hargrove
By Rep. Mark Hargrove
Transportation infrastructure is critical to our state’s economy. As the assistant ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, I know that moving freight in our trade-dependent state and getting residents to work, home and other important destinations should be our top priorities when considering road and bridge projects.
While a $10 billion transportation tax package was debated and barely passed in the House of Representatives at the end of the second special session (June 27), it did not pass the Senate. Many arguments for not passing the tax proposal at such a late date have merit. I believe holding off on the tax package was best in order to allow lawmakers time to listen to constituents and craft a plan that could receive strong bipartisan support.
On Oct. 9, I participated in the Senate’s bipartisan transportation feedback forum in Tacoma. Of the dozens of residents who spoke at the forum, all but three supported a “revenue package,” which would mean increasing the state gas tax and other fees to fund current and future transportation projects.
However, as I listened to those testifying and groups they represent, I considered how 47th District residents offered strong support of ballot measures requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to increase taxes and repealing the soda and candy taxes passed by the majority party in the Legislature. It concerns me that the voices I heard are not representative of our district as a whole.
I want to hear your thoughts, so I created a short online survey for constituents. You can access it online here.
Clearly, we must complete Highways 167 and 509 to connect our ports, highways and warehouses. This is critical to Washington’s economy and would aid in job creation in our communities. And, we certainly need to fix the Highway 167/405 interchange. However, before I can support the Legislature taking more tax dollars from constituents, we must put in place common-sense reforms that address cost drivers in the transportation system.
The reports on the faulty 520 Bridge pontoons, a ferry that lists due to design flaws and an off ramp on Highway 16 being put in the wrong place have eroded taxpayer trust. These errors are costing us hundreds of millions of dollars.
There are some simple solutions we can and should adopt in our state transportation system as part of any transportation tax package debate to lower the cost of projects and improve accountability. Here are some of the many solutions being considered:
• Ensure accountability for tax dollars by requiring the Washington State Department of Transportation to report engineering errors to the Legislature and find solutions to avoid making the same costly mistakes again (House Bill 1986).
• End the practice of paying sales tax on transportation projects, which diverts dollars meant for roads to the general fund to spend on non-transportation related programs and agencies (House Bill 1985).
• Streamline the permitting process (House Bill 1236), making it more predictable to ensure projects are started and completed on time.
• Address duplicate and costly land management studies required for large projects. For example, by allowing one exception to the Shoreline Management Act for the 520 Bridge project, the state saved $165 million.
The Legislature is currently also studying why it appears that the costs of transportation projects in Washington state are significantly higher than similar projects other states. We should have a better understanding before the next legislative session, when hopefully we will take necessary action.
Let’s have a debate on what reforms will work best to make sure citizens are getting the most bang for their buck. But, we cannot ignore the reality that more cost controls, accountability and common-sense changes must be made before we embark on new projects that will ask taxpayers for more to fund them.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts with me at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZSDNZ6Z. Or, call or e-mail me with your comments at (360) 786-7918 and Mark.Hargrove@leg.wa.gov.
Rep. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington, serves the 47th Legislative District. He is the assistant ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee.