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March 6, 2009 9:28 AM

Feeling unstimulated about road spending

Posted by Mike Lindblom

The state Legislature's use of $341 million in new federal road funds has drawn some belated criticism from Seattle-area interest groups, who say millions will be spent on the wrong things. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the spending legislation on Thursday.

Olympia's project list doesn't really create jobs, argues Michael Ennis, transportation analyst for the conservative Washington Policy Center. Instead of adding work, lawmakers are using over half the funds to fill budget holes on highway projects that are already funded by gas-tax hikes earlier this decade, he says. At best, the federal cash prevents Olympia from running out of gas tax eventually, and whacking future projects, like I-5 reconstruction. (So you might call it a delayed stimulus for the late 2010s.)

The Transportation Choices Coalition, Futurwise and WashPIRG criticize an I-405 widening project in Bothell and a Yakima Valley Mall interchange. "In Washington alone more than 400 bridges are structurally deficient, including the SR 520 bridge, South Park bridge and Murray Morgan bridge. These projects would have been very strong candidates for state stimulus spending," the groups say. But they support Tacoma HOV lanes, and repair to crumbling spots on I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass.

Another $179 million in transit stimulus money remains to be carved up by the Puget Sound Regional Council and other government coalitions around the state.

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Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Jennifer Sullivan
Covers the state Legislature from Olympia.

Chantal Anderson
Covers the state Legislature from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Writes about the city of Seattle and local politics.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Jim Brunner
Writes about money and power from Seattle.