Bill to accelerate state Route 167 project in Pierce County heads to the governor

Heavy truck traffic often clogs the roads at the end of state Route 167 where it ends at the Puyallup city limits.
Heavy truck traffic often clogs the roads at the end of state Route 167 where it ends at the Puyallup city limits. News Tribune archive photo

The state Legislature on Sunday put the final touches on a bill to move up completion of the state Route 167 project.

The Senate voted 32-14 to agree with House amendments to SB 5825. The bill moves to Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign it into law.

On Saturday, the House voted 60-38 to approve the bill, which accelerates completion of Route 167 to 2028 from 2031 by selling bonds for construction which will be repaid by toll revenue. Because the bill involves bonding, it required at least a 60 percent majority -- 59 votes or more -- to pass it.

The new segments of Route 167 in Pierce County and state Route 509 in King County are part of the Puget Sound Gateway project, which was funded at $1.88 billion in the state’s 2015 transportation package.

In 2008, the state converted one lane in each direction of Route 167 between Renton and Auburn from a high occupancy vehicle lane to a high occupancy toll lane on a temporary basis. The bill would make those toll lanes permanent, as well extending the I-405 express toll lanes south to its junction with Route 167.

The House amended the bill to authorize lowering the toll rates on the Route 167 and I-405 express toll lanes to pay for maintenance only once the bonds are repaid. The state Transportation Commission sets the toll rates.

Rep. Jake Fey, the Tacoma Democrat who gathered votes for the bill in the House, said the bonding and tolling package is critical to continue growing the state’s economy.

“My community is substantially dependent on the operations of the Port of Tacoma. It is very meaningful to have the Port of Seattle and our Sea-Tac Airport work effectively to bring the goods in and be able to ship them east or bring goods in for our own consumption in the state of Washington, whether it’s the goods, the apples and other fruits of eastern Washington or manufacturing products,” he said.

Rep. Kelly Chambers, R-Puyallup, said her constituents have been waiting for decades for Route 167 to be completed and connected to Interstate 5.

“This project is certainly challenging, but by bonding these tolls we are going to advance completion of this project, which means we will get goods and services moving faster and traffic moving throughout that region,” she said.

Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, worked in the Senate to get the bill passed.

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