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Gov. Gregoire signs bill to fund and build SR 520 floating bridge replacement

For Immediate Release: May 13, 2009

ABERDEEN – Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2211, approving construction and funding for a new SR 520 floating bridge replacement which will open to drivers in 2014. The bill authorizes tolling on SR 520 beginning next year. The combination of toll revenue, previously authorized state gas taxes, and federal funds closes the funding gap and allows the new floating bridge to move forward.

“Supporting a new SR 520 bridge replacement will help ensure our regional economy stays strong,” said Gregoire. “The new bridge will get travelers safely to their jobs at the University of Washington, the global health center in Seattle’s South Lake Union, and the technology hub on the east side of the lake.”

Gov. Chris Gregoire was joined by House transportation committee chair, Rep. Judy Clibborn, Rep. Lynn Kessler and Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond.

Construction will begin with the development of a pontoon casting basin in Grays Harbor next year. Building pontoons will support more than 2,000 jobs at the height of construction in 2013. This includes direct jobs spread across several skilled trades (masons, concrete workers, carpentry, iron workers, etc.), indirect jobs connected to construction.

“By starting tolling soon, we’ll save money on financing costs over the long run, leading to a lower overall project cost. This bill is about using the public’s money in the most efficient manner,” said Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island).

“This is a transportation project of major statewide significance, not only for those who will benefit from congestion relief, but also economically,” said Rep. Lynn Kessler (D – Hoquiam). “I’m very pleased the pontoons for the new 520 bridge will be constructed right here in Grays Harbor County. This project will bring good-paying, family-wage jobs to an area hard-hit by the recession.”

After the pontoons are towed to Lake Washington, construction of the floating bridge will begin in 2012. The new bridge, with four general purpose lanes and two new HOV lanes, is estimated to cost $1.85 billion.

Tolls on SR 520 will begin in late 2010 to pay for part of the costs of the new bridge. Beginning tolling next year will reduce the financing costs for the project by raising funds sooner, which decreases the amount that needs to be borrowed. Toll rates will vary throughout the day, with lower prices charged during non-peak times. Tolls will be collected electronically, which eliminates the need for toll booths.

“Tolls on SR 520 will help us get started immediately on a new floating bridge,” said Hammond. “Replacing this floating bridge by 2014 is an essential step to improve transportation safety and to help improve mobility in the Central Puget Sound Region.”