Crowd rallies at Capitol over transportation

By | May 20, 2013 | Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Rep. Denny Heck and several other elected officials spoke at a rally on the steps of the Capitol on Monday in favor of a transportation funding package.

About 200 people attended the event, many wearing neon safety gear and carrying signs that said: “Do your job so we can do ours,” and “Finish your job.”

The governor has said transportation funding must be a top priority during the current 30-day special session, along with a two-year operating budget and stricter drunk driving laws.

“Now, we’re going to ask legislators to legislate,” Inslee said. He called on lawmakers to pass a package that would fund major transportation projects, fix the state’s crumbling infrastructure and “finish what we started.”

A proposed 10-cent gas tax increase to fund transportation projects passed a House committee during regular session and has support among many House Democrats, but faces opposition from some GOP legislators — especially in the Senate where there are vocal opponents to the controversial Columbia River Crossing project.

The $3.4 billion CRC project would replace the Interstate 5 bridge linking Portland, Ore. and Vancouver, Wash.

Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, said the state “cannot afford to not build this bridge.” Eide said she’s walked across the bridge once — and won’t be doing it again. “That’s one scary bridge,” she said.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said that when he was a state representative 17 years ago, transportation was never a partisan issue. He said he’s hopeful Monday’s rally will spur that type of bipartisanship again.

Constantine talked about the need for transit funding, saying the King County Metro system will face a 17 percent cut in service if the Legislature doesn’t take action this year.

Republican legislators Bruce Dammeier and Hans Zeiger also spoke at the rally, both emphasizing the need to complete Highways 167 and 509.

“Completing those projects are the most important thing we can do for our economy,” Dammeier said.

Congressman Heck lead the crowd on a chant of “Pass it now!” that was repeated several times throughout the rally.

Later in the day, Inslee signed a no-frills transportation budget, but vetoed a section that included $81 million in planning money for the Columbia River Crossing. According to the AP, the governor said there’s no reason to spend the planning money if there’s no state funding for the bridge.

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Categories: transportation