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Schlicher discusses infrastructure, transportation with Port Orchard leaders
While the Tacoma Narrows Bridge does not feed traffic directly into South Kitsap, its operations affect many commuters in the area.
With that in mind, 26th District Sen. Nathan Schlicher led off his Monday afternoon conversation about the bridge with a handful of Port Orchard politicians at Amy’s on the Bay restaurant.
Schlicher said politicians are reviewing several options when it comes to paying off the bridge’s debt. Schlicher supported Senate Bill 2073, introduced by his predecessor, Derek Kilmer, who was elected in November to replace the retired Rep. Norm Dicks in the 6th Congressional District, that defers the collection of sales tax on the Tacoma Narrows until 2020. Collection of the sales tax is controversial as many believe it is wrong for toll payers to bear the burden of a tax that would go to state coffers. Schlicher (D-Gig Harbor) wants to examine another deferral or whether it makes sense to “completely write it off.”
Another issue, Schlicher said, is that the maintenance and operation of the bridge is funded through toll revenue. Schlicher said it makes sense to move “that off onto the transportation package because it is a road like any other road.”
After recently meeting with Gig Harbor business leaders, Schlicher was presented with an idea of validating bridge tolls. He said that concept would be similar to ones seen a places such as Seattle, where a person can eat at a restaurant and have that business validate their parking, which either makes it free or reduces the cost.
“A business could buy a book of 100 and say if you come over from Tacoma and eat at Amy’s on the Bay or in Gig Harbor at Brick’s or one of the restaurants, we’ll give you your toll bridge,” Schlicher said. “I think it’s a great idea and I would at least like the transportation commission to study it.”
While Port Orchard leaders, such as Mayor Tim Matthes, spoke about progress on the city’s Bay Street Pedestrian Pathway, Schlicher talked about other infrastructure improvements that could help the area. Even though the Legislature has not passed a budget and is into a second special session, Schlicher said the discussed transportation package is not as centric to King County as those in the past.
“There’s a number of pieces that are in there that kind of give it that broad flavor,” he said.
For South Kitsap, one significant Washington State Department of Transportation project is to construct a bypass around the Belfair urban area. According to WSDOT’s website, that “would provide a reliable high-speed route between Kitsap and Mason counties.”
Schlicher called the project “huge for [South Kitsap Industrial Area] development."
He also noted the addition of the first two 144-car ferries. Construction of the first vessel — the Tokitae — is supposed to be completed by spring 2014, while Samish, the second boat, could be ready by 2015. Both are expected to be used on the Seattle-Bremerton, Mukilteo-Clinton and San Juan Islands routes, depending on the season.
The new vessels will allow Washington State Ferries to retire its 87-car Evergreen State-class boats. Those are Evergreen State, Klahowya and Tillikum. All three are more than 50 years old.
• Schlicher spoke before the June revenue forecast for Washington state government showed a projected General Fund increase of $231 million from one finished in March for the current (2011-13) and next (2013-15) bienniums, but he recommended viewing those with caution.
“I would focus on each of the individual pieces of it,” he said. “The last one was not as positive about the future as the overall number was. It’s trying to forecast two years into the future with enough moving pieces to boggle anyone’s mind.”