Study: Invest $7 billion in state transport needs, $42 billion in benefits will come to Washington state

Steve Wilhelm, October 21, 2014, Puget Sound Business Journal

The payback from state transportation investments will yield a sixfold payback: $42 billion in economic benefits from $7 billion invested.

That’s a key finding from a study released by the Washington Roundtable Tuesday morning, intended to encourage Washington state lawmakers to pass long-delayed transportation funding.

“What we’re trying to do is to restart some positive discussion in the next session,” said Steve Mullin, president of the Washington Roundtable, an organization that represents the interests of 50 top Washington state companies.

The study pinpoints seven of the state’s largest unfunded projects, each of which has specific benefits to the state’s economy. And in every case, failure to fund the projects will erode state businesses’ ability to compete and grow.

“There is a substantial economic cost to inaction,” Mullin said.

Some of the specific paybacks include that investing the $7 billion would increase general fund tax revenues by $2 billion over 30 years, and would reduce business supply chain costs by $600 million, the study said.

For instance, one of the projects is the $1.66 billion it will take to finish SR 167 and SR 509, two freight routes that have been top priorities for the state’s two biggest container points for decades.

In both cases the routes, which could take freight trucks directly to and from the marine terminals of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, start off promisingly, but then abruptly end.

Trucks coming out of the Kent Valley travel speedily down the multi-lane SR 167, only to grind to a halt for the last few miles before the Port of Tacoma, in a quagmire of traffic lights and traffic congestion.

Another threat would come from failing to fund the most westward end of the 520 bridge, which is one of two bridges connecting the Eastside to Seattle, and which especially serves the Eastside Microsoft and Google campuses.

The project to build the floating bridge across Lake Washington is nearly done, but not finishing the westernmost portion, for $1.3 billion, will leave the entire system vulnerable to earthquakes, Mullin said.

The current bridge supports are below current earthquake standards.

A big emphasis of the study is maintenance, with it calling for $1.25 billion in road maintenance across the state, a subset of the total needed.

In this case fast action is critical, because many roads are degenerating, which needs to be caught before a total rebuild is needed, Mullin said.

“The longer you delay, the more expensive that prevention becomes,” he said.

The study was conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, which operates a Seattle office.

 

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