Politics & Government

Transportation forum on SR 167 scheduled for Tuesday at UWT

Pierce County community and business leaders plan to put state lawmakers and their possible replacements on the spot about funding a long-awaited extension of state Route 167 this week.

The SR 167 Completion Coalition is putting together a candidates’ forum on transportation Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Philip Hall at the University of Washington Tacoma.

The group of local governments and businesses invited 50 candidates running for South Sound legislative districts to participate. As of Friday, more than one-third had said they would attend.

Bruce Kendall, president of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, said in an email Friday that the forum is a chance for legislators “to hear from their constituents about the importance of 167” and for legislators to tell potential voters that they “are going to work to ensure that a comprehensive transportation package is passed in Olympia next session.”

The extension of state Route 167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma is seen as a major economic development project for the county. It has received top billing in many of the transportation plans to emerge out of Olympia, but getting it done depends on the Republicans and Democrats reaching a so-far elusive deal on how to pay for transportation improvements.

The parties agree on the need for some amount of gas tax increase but differ on other aspects, such as whether to shift sales tax receipts from road construction projects from the general fund to transportation.

In an op-ed published on Friday’s News Tribune opinion page, Port of Tacoma Commissioner Dick Marzano and Tom Pierson, CEO of the Tacoma/Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, argued that lawmakers who profess to be supportive of the SR 167 project but won’t back a funding package amount to opponents.

“Lawmakers may have reasonable differences of opinion in terms of what should be in a package, but at a minimum we need our leaders to at least publicly acknowledge the need for some sort of revenue package in order to see SR 167 be completed,” they wrote.