By Shari Phiel, December 17, 2014, The Daily News
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced a proposed $12 billion transportation package, with about half already set aside for projects the governor deemed as the “most pressing transportation needs.” But those needs apparently don’t include one considered critical to Cowlitz County.
“There’s not one dime for Cowlitz County. There’s not anything for Southwest Washington at all in that project list,” Mark Brown, lobbyist for the City of Longview, said of the governor’s plan. “How can you have a project list that ignores the entire region?”
Brown, along with officials from Longview and Cowlitz County, had been hoping the governor would set aside money for the proposed rail corridor improvements in the Longview industrial area.
A recent study from the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments identified $150 million to $350 million in improvements needed to avoid congestion and spur job-creation along the waterfront from the Port of Longview to Barlow Point. The plan is considered essential for the area to deal with a projected tripling of rail traffic in that corridor in the next two decades.
With most of funding from the plan going to support existing, large projects, Brown said that means there’s no money for new projects, such as the rail corridor project.
“If there’s no money for new projects, then maybe they need to raise more money,” Brown said.
Inslee plans to fund the $12 billion plan using bonds, fees and a carbon charge for industrial polluters. The carbon pollution charge would generate $7 billion over 12 years, he said.
Of the nearly $6 billion allocated to specific projects, nearly all in the Puget Sound region, $350 million was left to be distributed to the rest of the state.
“There are a few crumbs left under the table,” Brown said. “But we need $90 million to help us get moving forward with the (industrial rail) corridor project; it’s really key for economic development. Do you think we’re going to get $90 million out of that $350 million for one single project?”
But the fight isn’t over, Brown said. It will now be up to Legislators to decide how if the governor’s plan will work and how the funding will be distributed across the state. The Legislature will convene on Jan. 12.