Pierce County business, labor and community leaders have come together to form the SR 167 Completion Coalition, which aims to bring a unified agenda and message to the legislative session that the highway project needs priority attention.
“Completion of SR 167 is arguably the single largest economic development project in Washington state, generating 80,000 permanent jobs and $10 billion in payroll,” said Port of Tacoma Commissioner Dick Marzano, one of the group’s co-chairs.
John Parrott, president of Totem Ocean Trailer Express who serves as the other co-chair, said completing the project is “key to maintaining our competitive edge.”
Congressman Denny Heck, a 10th Congressional District freshman Democrat who represents Pierce County, was the first to bring together key leaders to form the coalition. Heck said he has spoken with 21 state senators and representatives about the necessity to complete the project.
“This is a wonderfully large and diverse group that needs to be grown even larger and more diverse,” Heck said. “(The coalition includes) business and labor and municipalities and the (Puyallup) Tribe. They all have one thing in common: They understand the long-term transformative nature of doing this project.”
Heck said it’s the No. 1 job creator for the South Sound and for the next generation.
“We have a real shot at this,” he said. “We’re going to keep making sure people know that there is no better investment that we could possibly be making.”
State Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, said the dollars needed to complete the project and extend the highway from where it ends in Puyallup to Interstate 5 and to the Port of Tacoma would cost the state $1.5 billion. He said the remaining right-of-way would need to be purchased, and then the project could be underway in a few years.
As a member of the House Transportation Committee, Zeiger said he’s working with many legislators to ensure SR 167 is completely funded this year.
“I’m involved in discussions about reforms that are needed and how we fund transformation projects,” he said. “There are things we can do to bring down the cost of transportation projects.”
Zeiger said the cost of permitting for projects is one reform. Others include making transportation projects sales-tax-exempt to ensure planning is designed to fit specific needs and circumstances.
“We need right-sizing project design, so it’s not one-size-fits-all,” Zeiger said.
He added that the completion of SR 167 is not just a western Washington project, it also would benefit economic development in eastern Washington.
“I’ve talked to a number of colleagues from eastern Washington and Seattle who see the importance,” Zeiger said. “It’s about getting agriculture products to market, about maintaining our ports at a time when the Panama Canal is being expanded and rail lines are being improved from British Columbia down to the Midwest.”
The coalition held its first meeting at the Port of Tacoma on Jan. 28. More than 70 business and government leaders attended.
“It was a very good show, and our goal is to build upon that,” said Tim Thompson, the coalition consultant and a principal member of the Thompson-Smitch consulting firm. “I am very pleased with the diversity of the coalition and the people involved.”
Thompson said the coalition will make sure Washington state is “getting ahead of a future challenge while addressing the current problem.”
“If we don’t make the investment, we not only lose economic development now, but future economic development,” he said. “We needed to do it 30 years ago, but we still need to do it now. There is an urgency with this coalition to impress upon state legislators that this is an important project.”
Coalition executive committee
Co-chair: Dick Marzano, Port of Tacoma Commissioner
Co-chair: John Parrott, Totem Ocean Trailer Express
Congressman Denny Heck, 10th Congressional District
Pat McCarthy, Pierce County Executive
Marilyn Strickland, Mayor of Tacoma
Pete Lewis, Mayor of Auburn
Glen Hull, Mayor pro-tem, Fife
Tom Pierson, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber president
Bill Sterud, Puyallup Tribe
Scott Mason, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 23
Toby Murray, Murray Pacific Corporation
Tim Thompson, Project ConsultantReporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.