City won’t have to pony up for project

State won’t ask Auburn for direct financial support to support future SR 167 connections to I-5

The Washington State Department of Transportation’s Gateway Program has two directives – connect State Route 167 to the Port of Tacoma, and State Route 509 to the I-5 corridor.

All to provide speedier passage of goods to and from the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, which is now impeded by aging corridors and heavy traffic.

“Obviously, family-wage jobs come from the port, a lot of materials come through, but also, distribution of a lot of that freight comes up through what you call the Green River, the White River, the Puyallup River valleys,” WSDOT Program Administrator Craig Stone told a study session of the Auburn City Council on Monday night, noting the enormous warehousing and industrial areas that characterize those places.

“We’re very trade dependent, we’re the second-most-trade-dependent state in the nation here,” Stone added.

Plans show that where SR 167 presently ends at Meridian in Puyallup, the state will build an interchange, adding lanes that extend to I-5, along with other connections.

Three years ago, the Washington State Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee tapped the Connecting Washington revenue package to pay for the program and determined that the money would come from the state gas tax, tolls and potential federal and state grants.

Of note to Auburn, lawmakers required that King and Pierce counties and cities benefiting from the projects add a collective $130 million to the pot.

Since the program’s approval, WSDOT has worked with 25 jurisdictions to create a plan to meet the local funding requirement and to determine their contributions based on benefits that the agencies may receive from the program.

That plan includes an analysis to determine Auburn’s level of involvement. As Auburn is what the WSDOT refers to as a Tier-3 jurisdiction – one that won’t directly benefit from the program – its involvement will be limited to supporting the state’s grant applications and to reviewing the design of the project.

City Engineer Ingrid Gaub emphasized that the state is not asking Auburn to commit to any direct funding, unlike the City of Fife, which will receive direct benefits from the program.

The state requires that a Memorandum of Understanding with participating cities and counties be completed by July 1, 2018. Auburn City Council members expect the MOU to come before them for approval at the June 4 meeting.

As the lead project sponsor, the WSDOT is responsible for the planning, design and construction of the Gateway Program, and for its overall financial management.

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