Calling it the region’s “number one” transportation priority, supporters of finally finishing State Route 167 are making a strong pitch to Olympia lawmakers to fund a final product. Transportation committee members in the capital are expected to learn new details this week from the Washington Department of Transportation.
“If we don’t complete this highway and complete it now,” said Pierce County Councilman Stan Flemming, “Our ability to remain competitive along the Pacific Rim becomes challenged.”
Flemming’s argument is at the heart of the pitch from county officials and the Port of Tacoma. Both are strongly pushing for SR 167 to continue from Puyallup through Fife and into the port at Highway 509. Supporters contend it will aid commerce and alleviate traffic congestion.
A preliminary price tag is around $1.4 billion, according to Flemming. State Rep. Judy Clibborn (D) – Mercer Island chairs the House Transportation Committee, and told KING 5 Saturday state transportation officials will have new information on cost this week.
That would include tolls, which Rep. Clibborn indicated are all but assured on the unfinished highway. She said the question she hopes is answered this week is how much the state could afford, and how much tolls will pay for.
While Flemming is pushing for the completed construction, he’s against making it a toll road.
“I don’t see how tolling pencils out to work,” he commented.
Completing SR 167 is not new. Construction ground to a halt in Puyallup decades ago when money ran dry. Now, advocates are racing to secure funding. On the horizon, they say, is whatever impact State Supreme Court-mandated funding of education will have on resources. In essence, Flemming said they’re trying to beat the clock.
This all comes as no surprise to Anita Mastin, who has lived in her Puyallup home for 40 years. Her seven-acre property sits in the middle of the proposed highway. Six years ago, the state offered her around $1 million for the land, which she turned down.
“I just thought, I probably won’t happen anyway,” said Mastin, “So I didn’t take the offer. I probably should have.”
As for whether she would reconsider if the state came back?
“I would think twice,” she explained, “Another few years down the road, yeah, probably.”