State Route 167 backers confident funding can be secured

Supporters of the effort to complete State Route 167 are making a full-court press to secure funding for the project. There are various concepts for the design and length, but the full-scale concept favored by local leaders would have a price tag in the range of $1.5 billion. After years of discussion, they are confident that 2013 will be the year that the money will be lined up.

Local business, political and labor leaders gathered at Fabulich Center on Jan. 28 to discuss strategy. U.S. Representative Denny Heck, who was elected last fall in Washington’s new 10th Congressional District, began the meeting with a message of optimism. He has met with about 20 members of the state House of Representatives and Senate. “There is very significant support in this area,” he said of members of the Pierce County delegation. Heck pointed out that new Governor Jay Inslee told him he would do anything possible to move the project forward.

“I passionately believe this can be a transformative project for the Puget Sound region and the entire state,” Heck declared.

Local leaders have formed the SR-167 Completion Coalition to lobby for state and federal funding to construct the final section of the road from Puyallup to the Tideflats.

“We need to have a good game plan,”- Pat McCarthy, Pierce County Executive

A federal program can provide loan guarantees and lines of credit for projects of regional significance. Up to $1 billion is authorized for a project.

Another potential source of money is the Tribal Transportation Program, offered through the Federal Highway Administration. The agency coordinates with tribal and state governments and Bureau of Indian Affairs on road projects that are on tribal land. The final section of SR-167 would run through the Puyallup Tribal Reservation. Bill Sterud, vice chair of Puyallup Tribal Council, is a member of the SR-167 Completion Coalition.

Chad Wright is director of Marine View Ventures, the tribe’s economic development department. He attended the meeting and noted completion of the highway would open new doors for the tribe’s business activities. “This project is of critical importance to the tribe,” he said. “We are very supportive of this.”

At the state level, local leaders hope the Legislature will include SR-167 in a larger transportation funding package. Representative Judy Clibborn, chair of the State House Transportation Committee, has announced her support of including SR-167 in such a package. She intends to introduce a plan for a statewide transportation package in February.

But the Legislature has other expensive matters to attend to. Last year the State Supreme Court, in its McCleary decision, stated that lawmakers are not adequately meeting the requirement in the state Constitution to fund public education. And as happens each session, various interest groups pressure lawmakers to boost funding for various services and programs.

Tim Thompson, a political consultant on the executive committee, wants to hold an event in Olympia in the near future where local leaders can meet with legislators to have a meal and discuss SR-167. He wants people representing environmental groups, labor unions and the private sector to attend. He also wants more involvement in the effort from people who work for warehouses, banks and in fields related to construction, such as engineers, architects and contractors.

“We need to have a good game plan,” said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, another member of the executive committee.

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