Tri-Citians can speak about transportation issues Thursday in Pasco

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 23, 2013 

Tri-Citians will have a chance Thursday to speak to state legislators about transportation issues and how to pay for them, including a possible gas tax increase.

The Senate Transportation Committee recently added the Tri-City forum to the list of seven original locations.

The meeting is from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday in the Gjerde Center at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

Gov. Jay Inslee has extended his Thursday visit to the Tri-Cities and plans to give "very brief" remarks at the forum, spokeswoman Jaime Smith said Monday.

Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, co-chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, added forums in Pasco, Seattle and Bellingham after getting numerous public requests for hearings in those areas.

State transportation department officials also are participating in the forums.

The first forums in Bellevue and Everett drew more than 200 people, with about 75 speaking at each, said Majority Coalition Caucus spokesman Erich Ebel.

One major issue discussed is whether the Legislature should pass a gasoline tax increase to pay for a transportation package.

A number of people spoke in favor of a gas tax, but many others said the state needs to instead better scrutinize their transportation costs, Ebel said.

The decision to add the Pasco forum was announced Sept. 11, two days after the Pasco City Council discussed supporting a transportation package if it includes money for a new Lewis Street overpass over the downtown railroad tracks, which could cost $30 million. A week later, the council voted to support the transportation package.

That support includes using the city-funded lobbyist to encourage legislators to put the overpass in the package.

Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins said the council's primary concern is making sure the state puts together a transportation package.

"Whether or not there's a gas tax, we'll let the Legislature decide how they want to fund it," he said.

King and the other transportation committee co-chair, Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, plan to attend the Pasco meeting.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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