A national group’s list of highway “boondoggles” includes the newly funded plan to extend state Route 509 in South King County and state Route 167 in Pierce County.
The U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a consumer-focused, left-of-center nonprofit organization, wants transportation funding redirected from new highways to repairing existing roads and bridges and to mass transit, bicycle and pedestrian paths. For the second time, it has compiled examples of what it sees as “questionable highway projects.”
The last list included the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement. This one highlights the Puget Sound Gateway project that calls for two new stretches of highway: southern access to Sea-Tac International Airport via Route 509 and a more direct route for products passing through the Port of Tacoma.
“The state is proposing to spend billions of dollars on a highway to relieve congestion in an area where traffic has not grown for more than a decade, and where other pressing needs for transportation funding exist,” the report says of the gateway.
The report looks at traffic volume on the surface streets that are labeled state Route 509 and state Route 167, and notes that traffic counts at some spots on those streets haven’t budged much in recent years.
The report cites a price tag and concept for the gateway project that date back to proposals the Legislature chose not to pursue. The Legislature called for a $1.9 billion combined project and decided not to include toll lanes on Interstate 5, which are the basis of the report’s contention that the gateway would add traffic on I-5.
Both extensions were backed by Washington’s ports, and business and labor groups, and were approved by the Legislature last year with funding from an increase in the gasoline tax. Supporters say the gateway project will spur economic development by helping the ports compete and will reduce traffic.