By Steve Dunkelberger, October 16, 2013, Tacoma Weekly
Local politicos and business boosters rallied last week to show their support for efforts to find funding to construct the last “critical mile” of State Route 167 that would finally connect the Puyallup Valley’s warehouse centers to shipping operations at the Port of Tacoma. The road was first envisioned more than 40 years ago, but has never been fully funded.
Elected officials from around Pierce County made their case at a forum last week in Tacoma that drew more than 300 people, including a group of state lawmakers who organized it in an effort to develop a roster of transportation packages around Washington that could be funded through a statewide transportation package.
Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-25th District, was among the 17 legislators at the meeting and heard testimony from 74 local citizens and public officials, many of whom shared concerns and frustrations about the 40-year delay in completing State Route 167 in Pierce County.
“I was not surprised to hear people say we have a transportation crisis on our hands – because we do,” Dammeier said. “On top of unfinished and unfunded roadways, we have structurally deficient bridges all across the state, aging ferry boats and a significant amount of waste and mismanagement within WSDOT. Completing SR 167 is an example of investing in infrastructure that would drive economic growth and global competitiveness, in addition to reducing congestion and improving regional connectivity.”
The Tacoma meeting was the third of 10 cities chosen for a statewide listening tour to gather input from Washington residents on transportation priorities. The completion of SR 167 would not only boost jobs in the South Sound by streamlining trucking routes between the Tideflats and distribution centers in the Puyallup Valley but also help control Interstate 5 gridlock by removing thousands of trucks from that roadway.
Local transportation watchers saw the SR 167 funding on the state budget last session, but it was ultimately removed. But it was the closest the effort has gotten in years in a campaign that is building political and business support for the $1.8 billion project. The roster of supporters includes regional legislators, local mayors, terminal operators, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, the Tacoma Pierce County Association of Realtors, Citizens for a Healthy Bay and the Puyallup Tribe.
“Our economic development at the Port of Tacoma is dependent on road investments,” said Puyallup Tribal Councilman David Bean. “Completion of 167 will create thousands of jobs that would benefit our tribal members.”
Comments from transportation watchers around the state will be used to draft a legislative package during the next session. The working plan calls for increases in fuel taxes as well as new fees on shipping operations to raise an estimated $10 billion during the next 10 years for major infrastructure projects.