Could Washington state bridge collapse spur fuel tax increase?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/28/2013

The collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington state has spurred renewed talk at the statehouse about a dime increase in the state’s fuel tax rate to help cover transportation funding needs.

Discussion on funding has been ongoing at the statehouse for most of the year. A special session to continue negotiations opened on May 13 and could stretch to mid June.

Acknowledging that the age or condition of the bridge may not have anything to do with last week’s collapse, Gov. Jay Inslee has joined House Democrats in pushing a nearly $9 billion tax package that includes a 10-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase to pay for roads, bridges and transit work.

Republicans, who lead the Senate, have instead spent most of the year calling on their counterparts to enact a transportation reform package before the conversation turns to increasing the state’s 37.5-cent-per-gallon fuel tax.

As debate continues the governor told media gathered at the site of the bridge collapse that he will work to get the Legislature to provide the resources necessary to address road and bridge funding needs.

“I hope this incident will help us all focus our bipartisan efforts to find a solution to our transportation needs,” Inslee said at a weekend press conference.

The Democratic plan would raise the fuel tax rate to 47.5 cents over five years.

Projects that would benefit from the additional funding include widening Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass, adding lanes to Interstate 405, and building the Columbia River Crossing. The project would replace the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River and includes a light rail component.

Senate Republicans have vowed to block any package that includes light rail.

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