Pierce County Interests Back State Route 167 Extension

By Jordan Schrader, May 10, 2013, The News Tribune

Pierce County governments, businesses and unions have contributed or are poised to contribute more than $90,000 this year to lobby state lawmakers to extend state Route 167 to the Port of Tacoma.

The project’s supporters worked to secure money for the project throughout the Legislature’s 105-day regular session that ended last month. They are gearing up to continue in the special session next week, joining a first-day gathering of transportation advocates Monday at the Capitol.

The Route 167 extension is part of a bigger package supporters are calling the Puget Sound Gateway Project, a $1.73 billion project that would complete 167 between Puyallup and the port and extend a similarly unfinished stretch of state Route 509 near SeaTac.

Pierce County filed paperwork last week reporting an $18,000 payment to the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber to help pay for Route 167 advocacy and to retain Tacoma-based consultant Tim Thompson to coordinate the campaign.

The Port of Tacoma has chipped in $30,000 and the city of Fife $5,000, chamber president Tom Pierson said. About $15,000 has come from businesses such as Totem Ocean Trailer Express and $3,500 from labor groups such as longshoremen, Pierson said. Other amounts have been committed but not received, he said.

“Everybody’s coming to the table,” Pierson said.

City of Tacoma officials have committed to a $15,000 share but that’s expected to climb to $20,000, they said, of which half would be covered by Tacoma Public Utilities and the other half by the city’s general-government funds.

It likely won’t be clear what the money really bought until the end of lawmakers’ work, because the outcome is tied to a final deal on the state budget and other matters.

“I think we’ve got a shot,” Thompson said, “but it’s still an uphill battle.”

The totals don’t show the full scope of the lobbying effort. The Route 167 expansion is a major priority for many groups that have an annual presence in Olympia separate from the coalition’s campaign.

Among Pierce County’s local governments, those expenses topped $160,000 in the first three months of 2013.

Pierce County reported spending just shy of $50,000 on lobbying, not counting its contribution to the chamber. The city of Tacoma also spent nearly $50,000, with TPU making a separate $35,000 outlay, for contract and staff lobbyists.

Puyallup spent $12,000, and the Port of Tacoma reported $16,000 in lobbying expenses.

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