MEDINA, Washington — Overlooking the state Route 520 floating bridge project, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday unveiled a proposal he said would address the state's most pressing transportation needs — fixing bridges and roads and boosting the ferry system while cleaning the air and water.
Inslee hopes to fund the $12 billion plan with bonds, fees and a carbon charge on the state's industrial polluters. The market-based carbon pollution charge will generate $7 billion over 12 years, he said. The fee will generate the equivalent of a 12 cent gas tax without hurting consumers, he said.
"Transportation pollution paying for transportation solutions," Inslee said. "It's not our children's lungs that should be burned. It should be polluters'.
"It's a pretty elegant solution for the state of Washington."
The state will face a 52 percent drop in its maintenance budget and 71 bridges will become structurally deficient if the Legislature is not able to pass a transportation budget in the 2015 session, he said. What's needed to resolve this barrier is a vision that transcends old divides and recognizes "there are no Democratic or Republican bridges," Inslee said. "They all need to be safe."
He hopes to connect all of Washington through a "bipartisan spirit" that aims to "reduce the hours we spend on the roads away from our families."
His "Let's Move Forward" plan includes 50,000 construction jobs that will ensure projects are completed and traffic congestion reduced.
Republican state Sen. Curtis King, who will chair the Transportation Committee in January, said he was pleased to see the governor's plan but said it falls short in many areas.
"At least we know where he wants to go, but I don't believe he has enough money to go around the state," King said, adding that the proposal fails to fund a number of projects. On the governor's carbon pollution charge, King said, "he wants to call it a charge, but I would call it a tax."
High on the wish list will be the completion of the SR 520 bridge — "the longest floating bridge in the world" — at a cost of $1.4 billion. He also wants to spend $1.3 billion on Interstate 405 between Bellevue and Renton and $1.8 billion for work on state highways 509 and 167, he said.
Inslee hopes to improve the water-commuter experience by funding a fourth ferry, freezing ferry rate increases and improving ferry reliability. He wants to see the ferries contribute to his clean-air vision by moving from diesel to cleaner natural gas, he said.
About $278 million is needed for Interstate 5 improvements near Joint Base Lewis-McChord and another $432 million would fund work on U.S. 395 from Francis to the Spokane River.
Inslee wants more funding for projects that will improve safety on the road, including adding rumble stripes, guardrails, improved signals and funds for the Washington State Patrol. He also wants to invest a landslide early warning detection system.
The governor says more than half the state dollars will go toward new construction and economic development. A quarter will be aimed at maintenance, operations and preservation, and 20 percent goes to clean transportation and public transportation.
Key to making all of these visions work is accountability, he said. The state will track projects to make sure they are completed on time and on budget, he said.
All of this can be done with "a new and bold idea that will breathe new life" into the state - the polluter's fee, he said.
"We can clean our air and water at the same time we are fixing our air and our roads," he said. "It is indeed a two-for."
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