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Gov. Gregoire signs bill to fund new, safer 520 bridge

For Immediate Release: March 31, 2008

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed House Bill 3096 to fund a new State Route 520 bridge. The bill closes the funding gap by authorizing tolls on SR 520 to match the state and federal contributions of nearly $2 billion. Up to $2 billion is expected to be raised through tolls. The bridge is planned to be opened to drivers in 2014, four years earlier than initially projected.

“This is a pivotal step towards a safer, less congested SR 520 bridge,” Gregoire said. “The new bridge will create more consistent drive times for commuters, transit users and businesses.”

Several critical decisions by the governor and Legislature have made possible an accelerated schedule for SR 520. This includes endorsement of a new SR 520 corridor with four general purpose lanes and two HOV/transit lanes, setting a budget of $3.98 billion and creating a mediation process for the west side interchange.

“We are closer to a solution on the west side of the lake, thanks to the good work of the communities and neighborhoods participating in the mediation process,” Gregoire said.

A fully funded bridge was realized through several factors, including cost savings from an accelerated construction schedule, early construction of a single string of pontoons as well as activities on the east side of the lake, and deferral of the sales tax on construction costs. The law also moves Washington toward construction of bridge pontoons in Tacoma in 2009 and in Grays Harbor beginning in 2011.

“This bill helps us accomplish two critical goals,” said Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. “The Legislature’s approval of tolling to pay for a new SR 520 will help keep drivers safer and manage our roads more efficiently to reduce congestion across Lake Washington.”

The bill also establishes a tolling implementation committee with Hammond; Bob Drewel, Puget Sound Regional Council executive director; and Dick Ford, State Transportation Commission member. The committee will evaluate tolling options for SR 520, consult with local jurisdictions and the public, and provide a report to the governor and Legislature by January 2009.

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