Localized transportation plan in the works



SEATTLE - Voters said no to Referendum 51, but will they say yes to new county taxes to fix local roads?

If the state won't do it, the counties will. A breakaway plan by the state's big three counties seems to be the latest tactic to solve Western Washington's traffic jams.

The legislature failed in the last two sessions to fix them and voters turned down Referendum 51 that would have created a tax to pay for road improvements.

After voters rejected Referendum 51, leaders are wondering if a three-county transportation plan would fly.
If voters don't like the idea of paying a statewide gasoline tax to fix and build roads, maybe they'll go for something more local. King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties leaders got together Friday to being discussing plans of creating their own gas tax to address their collective traffic problems.

The idea has been around for a while, but is expected to gain momentum within the weeks and months to come. All of this comes after state leaders made it clear failures at the polls and in the Legislature have left the statewide transportation system in serious trouble.

"We are going to have to do things different," said Washington State Governor Gary Locke. "There's no question about it. A lot of the things that we now do we will not be able to do...period."

Traffic jams are blamed for locking up the Puget Sound economy and lifestyle. The big three counties are considering taking matter into their owns hands: Create their own gas taxes of four, five, six cents a gallon within the three counties and keeping here for local projects.

Many feel it's the only way to get this stalled traffic show on the road.

There are a lot of factors to consider: How would this affect the rest of the state? Would losing all that revenue from the most populated region benefit the rest of the state? And how would state leaders feel about it?

It's a big change from the "we're all in this together concept" that they've embraced over the years. But regional leaders discussing this idea Friday are reportedly surprised to see how popular the breakaway concept is gaining speed.

A lot of things would have to happen. It's not even known if the plan is constitutional. The state would have to sign off on it and the voters would have to approve.

The theory is that voters maybe didn't like the idea of throwing their money in one big state pool. Maybe they will feel more comfortable if they throw it in a three county pool.


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