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Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2008, 12:01 a.m.

GOP pitches its own plan for U.S. 2

OLYMPIA -- House Republicans said Tuesday they can come up with $6 billion in new money for transportation projects -- including $500 million for U.S. 2 -- without raising taxes.
They squeezed all the details of a 10-year plan for raising and spending the money onto a single sheet of paper in an effort that appeared aimed more at scoring points in elections this fall than passing legislation this session.
Deputy Republican Leader Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said the GOP ideas for making roads safer and less congested offer an alternative to what has been provided by the Democratic majority setting policy for the state.
"One of the things we haven't seen in Olympia the last few years on transportation is leadership," he said.
Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, argued for significant investment in safety improvements on U.S. 2, where 47 people have died in crashes between Everett and Stevens Pass since 1999.
He said there is $2 billion worth of needed safety improvements on U.S. 2, yet the budgets crafted by Democrats in the House and Senate offer $4 million for rumble strips and $5 million for a passing lane "to repair an area where there's never been a fatality."
The Republican proposal would steer $1.5 billion of gas tax dollars away from replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct and into work on U.S. 2, Highway 9 and other routes in Eastern and southwest Washington.
To replace the funding for the viaduct, the GOP would allow the private sector to finance building a tunnel in place of the existing viaduct.
Republicans also would generate money from tolls on Evergreen Floating Bridge and a new Columbia River crossing and divert 10 percent of sales tax on new and used cars and auto parts from the general fund into the transportation budget.
"This plan is dead on arrival," Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee, said in a prepared statement.
"While it is nice to finally see some sort of proposal from House Republicans, it is hard to take these proposals seriously," she said.
Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, who is chairwoman of the Senate transportation panel, had a similar reaction, particularly about the proposal for the private sector to finance a viaduct replacement.
"The people of the state of Washington aren't happy about some foreign company owning our highways," she said. "This takes money away from children and old people to fund highways."
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed transportation budgets. Clibborn and Haugen are now working to iron out the differences.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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