SR 520 Bill Signing

May 13, 2009

Good afternoon, and thank you all for coming.

It’s an understatement to say I’m extremely pleased to be here this afternoon. And I don’t know about the rest of you -- but I’m going to sleep better after I sign this legislation.

This – literally – is a landmark bill!

And when I sign it, we will begin replacing the very vulnerable 520 bridge with a new, very safe bridge to serve one of Washington’s most vital, important corridors…

You might be wondering why we came to Grays Harbor County to sign this bill – when many of you probably rarely use the 520 bridge.

But as I said in my Inaugural address – this past legislative session had to be about creating and supporting jobs.

And that’s what this bill does – for a part of our state that could use some good economic news.

I know this area has been hit particularly hard during the recession. I know your neighbors are struggling – and looking for employment.

I am well aware that the unemployment rate here has nearly doubled this past year (from 7.5% to 13.9%).

But this project will provide some stability and economic growth for Grays Harbor county – and I’m happy to be here today to share the good news.

This community will play an enormous role in getting the new 520 bridge constructed.

This is where the majority of the pontoons needed for the 520 bridge will be built. In fact, we have appropriated $620 million dollars to be spent in Grays Harbor county to construct pontoons. Plus, we intend to do the training here in Grays Harbor as well.

And when we begin the pontoon construction early next year – it could support almost 3,000 jobs in Grays Harbor County alone!

These are good-paying jobs that will help get the economy back on track.

Earlier today – I signed the historic transportation budget.

Let me just say that with the 520 bill I’m signing now – together with the Viaduct replacement yesterday – and the overall transportation budget I signed earlier, the Legislature estimates we will create or sustain 49,000 jobs for Washingtonians.

That’s the most significant transportation package in state history – all coming at a time when we really need jobs and we need to get ready for a 21st Century economy!

And let me mention – the transportation budget includes some significant road improvements for this area… including paving and chip seal projects on Highway 101 and State Route 109.

These projects will create or support even more jobs in your community.

Now, to the issue that will help me sleep better – safety. Your work on the new 520 bridge will make motorists a lot safer.

The current bridge is 45 years old – four years older than the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed last year.

We know the 520 bridge is extremely vulnerable to earthquakes like the Nisqually Quake, and equally vulnerable to severe windstorms.

In addition to the safety improvements – The bill I’m signing today provides us the ability to toll both the old and new bridge for the lion’s share of the financing for the new bridge.

And I should point out – early tolling now means a less likely chance of higher tolls later.

And because of this legislation, the federal government – through its Urban Partnership grant – is giving the state $86 million dollars to build the tolling infrastructure.

King County will also receive federal money to buy 40 buses to use on only on the 520 bridge.

The new Tacoma Narrows Bridge taught us all that tolling works -- That if it means people can get to work and home faster and safer – they can live with the tolls.

When fully up and running in 2016, the bridge will have three lanes each way and a path for bicyclists and pedestrians. One of those lanes in each direction will be dedicated to buses and carpools to encourage using mass transit, saving energy and the environment.

Furthermore, the new bridge will have shoulders for vehicle breakdowns -- unlike the old bridge. I don’t think I need to explain how important that is to anybody stuck on this bridge behind a disabled vehicle.

We still have some challenges, especially settling on the design and financing for the west side of the new bridge.

We continue to work with key partners and neighborhoods on the west side of the bridge to find the most appropriate and cost effective solution.

But we’ll get there, and we will have the first four lanes of the new bridge built by 2014!

This is a great day for working families, for all the people and businesses on both sides of Lake Washington, and for the economic future of Grays Harbor County and the entire state.

I’m pleased to sign this bill today – as well as Senate Bill 54-99 which creates a competitive bidding environment to ensure the public receives the best value for their tax dollars.