Chamber endorses Roads and Transit plan

The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber Thursday became the first major entity in Pierce County to endorse the Roads & Transit package on the November ballot. The Chamber’s Board of Directors unanimously endorsed a resolution suppring the plan., and that approval is timely as members of the Pierce County Council prepare to consider action this month on the package — namely, whether or not to join their peers in King and Snohomish counties in placing the combined package on the ballot.

The future of the Regional Access Mobility Partnership, or RAMP, a $7 billion roads plan for King, Snohomish and Pierce counties will be decided by the region’s voters this fall, and will be combined with Sound Transit’s $10.8 billion light rail, bus and commuter rail plan in a single ballot question. As directed by the Washington State Legislature this past session, voters will approve or reject both packages with one vote; a simple majority is needed to approve the Roads & Transit proposal.

Supporters say decades of deferred investment in the region’s transportation infrastructure will be addressed in the combined Roads & Transit proposal, which was developed by regional leaders through two high-level venues: the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) chaired by Pierce County Councilmember Shawn Bunney, and Sound Transit, the regional transit agency chaired by John Ladenburg, Pierce County Executive.

Sound Transit is proposing a 50-mile light-rail-expansion to the Tacoma Dome in the south, near Mill Creek in the north and Redmond to the east by 2027 — building on the 19 miles currently underway. The package also includes 11,200 new parking stalls, 7 new or improved Sounder Commuter rail stations, and enhanced bus and commuter rail service.

The capital cost of the transit improvements is currently estimated at $10.8 billion. The transit part of the package would boost the sales tax by a nickel per $10 purchase, which officials estimate would run about $125 a year for a typical household.

The roads portion of the package would mainly pay for highway lanes that can’t be funded through gas taxes alone. The adopted package retains SR-167 as the marquee investment in Pierce County and allocates funding for the Cross-Base Highway. Other Pierce County improvements to be funded through this package include improvements to SR-410/SR-162, enhanced access to Tacoma Mall, and non-motorized improvements.

The road improvements would be funded by a sales-tax increase of 1 cent per $10 purchase and an annual car-tab tax of $80 per $10,000 of vehicle value. The capital cost of the roads package is $7.0 billion in 2006 dollars.