There has been a steady drumbeat from many groups in our state – including business, labor, ports, tribes and local governments – to pass a transportation revenue, investment and reform package.
That drumbeat has carried on through two regular sessions, two special sessions, numerous hearings and many “listening sessions.” Despite all of that effort we still do not have a transportation package.
In our part of the state, the completion of state routes 167 and 509 could prove to be an absolute game-changer for not just our local economy, but also the entire state’s.
Unfortunately, inaction by the state Legislature does not simply mean a loss of economic opportunity, it also means the possibility of economic regression as companies look for opportunities outside of the state of Washington to do business.
The completion of SR-167 alone is projected to create 948 direct jobs per year of construction and the potential for 80,000 permanent jobs statewide once complete, reductions in air emissions due to congestion relief, and the increased capacity for the movement of freight to keep our ports competitive in the world market.
This should be enough to warrant action, yet some of our Olympia lawmakers are satisfied with doing nothing. This dynamic cannot continue.
At this point we have heard a lot from both sides of the issue. Reasons for still not having a bill have been blamed on a lack of political will, political posturing, the upcoming election, education funding, and the list goes on.
In reality, most legislators are for the completion of SR-167 and projects like it. What we face for the most part is a complete shortage of key leaders who will come out and support the way it must be funded. Being “for” a project but against the way we must pay for it is irresponsible, misleading and not supportive; it amounts to opposition.
We must ask every state legislative candidate if he or she is prepared to vote for a transportation package and its funding source to reduce congestion, create thousands of jobs and keep our ports competitive with the rest of the world.
Lawmakers may have reasonable differences of opinion in terms of what should be in a package, but at a minimum we need our leaders to at least publicly acknowledge the need for some sort of revenue package in order to see SR-167 be completed.
We need to get to yes on a bipartisan basis and replace inaction with investment, jobs, improved safety, freight mobility and congestion relief. We need to do it now, without excuses.
Dick Marzano is a member of the Tacoma Port Commission. Tom Pierson is CEO and president of the Tacoma/Pierce County Chamber of Commerce. Both are executive members of the SR-167 Completion Coalition.