Rivers will host transportation forum

$15 billion transportation reform package is being considered by the House

When: Saturday, March 21, at 2 p.m.

Where: Camas Public Library, 625 N.E. Fourth Ave.

For more information: Visit http://annrivers.src.wastateleg.org.

When: Saturday, March 21, at 2 p.m.

Where: Camas Public Library, 625 N.E. Fourth Ave.

For more information: Visit http://annrivers.src.wastateleg.org.

Several local projects are included in a $15 billion state transportation revenue package that has been passed by the Senate and is now being considered by the House of Representatives.

Citizens in the 18th Legislative District will have the opportunity to discuss these projects during an upcoming forum organized by Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center), who was among the legislators who approved the package March 2.

A one-hour meeting will be held Saturday, March 21, at the Camas Public Library. Community discussions will also be held in Ridgefield and Battle Ground.

“This gathering is a great way to bring folks from my communities together,” Rivers said. “I’m excited to share with my friends and neighbors about the benefits of the transportation projects that would be coming to our district.”

18th District Rep. Brandon Vick (R-Felida) is also seeking input on the topic from constituents in the form of a three-question survey, which is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/J8V76MY.

Proposed projects in the 18th Legislative District include $7.5 million for the $16 million 27th Street extension and railroad overpass in Washougal; $500,000 for the $1.4 million 32nd Avenue/Evergreen Way reconstruction in Washougal; $21.36 million for improvements to the Camas Slough Bridge on state Route 14; and $35 million to widen SR-14 between Interstate 205 and Southeast 164th Avenue in Vancouver.

“The projects slated for our legislative district alone will produce an enormous return on investment,” Rivers said. “Between the enhanced economic development our area will enjoy, and the family-wage construction jobs that will result from these projects and the others in surrounding districts, this is a great deal for Clark County.”

Funded through a proposed 11.7 cent gas tax increase phased in over three years, all told the transportation revenue package devotes $8 billion to new construction, and $1.4 billion to maintenance and preservation of existing roads and bridges across the state.

The revenue bill will fund 16 years worth of transportation projects by increasing the state’s current 35.7 cents per gallon gas tax by five cents in July 2015, 4.2 cents in July 2016 and 2.5 cents in July 2017.

It would make Washington’s combined state and federal gas tax 67.6 cents per gallon, the second highest in the United States behind Pennsylvania.

“I wish there was a ‘no tax of any kind’ option, but taxes are how we have always paid for roads,” Rivers said. “There has to be a revenue source, and while this package isn’t perfect, it’s a big improvement over 10 years ago.”

17th Legislative District legislator Don Benton (R-Vancouver) was one of the senators to vote against the transportation package, citing its high taxes and fees. He described it as “bad for Southwest Washington.”

“It would force drivers in my district to pay nearly 12 cents more per gallon, while also hiking the passenger-vehicle weight fees and license fees on light trucks and heavy trucks,” he said. “It also increases fees in vehicle sales, electric vehicles, studded tires, trailers and CDL permits and re-qualification exams.”

Benton noted that the package doesn’t devote enough funding to Southwest Washington.

“Nearly 60 percent of the revenue in this package would go to the Puget Sound region, with the rest of the state getting the scraps,” he said. “Southwest Washington is not treated fairly in the project list.”

The Legislature has not approved a transportation revenue package since 2005, and that one allocated no money to maintenance and preservation.

The current session, which was convened Jan. 12, is scheduled to end on April 26.

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