Northwest NEWS

February 8, 1999

Front Page

County coalition asks for big slice of R-49 pie

by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter

   SEATTLE--King County is requesting $46.6 million for improvements to State Route 522 between Woodinville and I-5 as part of a $1.4 billion transportation project list county leaders are urging state legislators to consider fully funding.

   The list was prepared by a coalition of 85 representatives from King County, Seattle, suburban cities, chambers of commerce, and other groups and recently sent to Olympia.

   "Never before have such a broad range of governments worked together--and then agreed-- on a prioritized list of road projects," said County Councilman Rob McKenna, who represents the southeast sides of Lake Washington, and serves on the council's Transportation Committee.

   The list will compete with other bids to capture money from a pot created by the voter-approved Referendum 49.

   For Northshore, county leaders are calling for $30 million for fix-ups for SR-522 between I-5 and Bothell, $10 million for access to the University of Washington branch campus under construction in Bothell, and $6.6 million for new freeway ramps and improved access into Woodinville.

   The meat of the request, though, is for freight mobility improvements in south King County such as railroad grade separations, widening State Route 18 and bridge work. At least one-fifth of the proposal deals directly with ways to better move goods.

   After county officials visited Los Angeles rail and port facilities, they realized that a strategy was needed to keep freight moving and preserve the Seattle area's so-called one-day advantage in getting goods out to the rest of the country.

   Chris Johnson, an aide to Councilman McKenna, said grade separations, and freight and truck corridors could also lessen congestion for the average Joe sitting in traffic.

   "All of these can make a difference in the long run if we can get trucks off roads during peak congestion, and avoid waiting at a crossing for a mile or two mile long train to go by," Johnson said. He added that federal funding has been set aside, but that the state needs to match that.

   County officials argue that King County is the economic engine driving the state and should receive a significant portion of Referendum 49 money. While King County accounts for about 3 percent of the state's land area, it is also home to 49 percent of the state's economic vitality as measured by total payroll, according to the county.

   King County Councilman Dwight Pelz ,who represents the lower Duwamish Waterway, promised to continue working "with the cities and the regional transportation groups to convince the Legislature these projects are essential for continuing economic vitality statewide and improving the quality of life in King County."