Ref. 51 gas tax vote gets lukewarm reception in Silverdale

The Kitsap County League of Women Voters Wednesday had lukewarm reactions to a heated debate over Referendum 51.

“It was interesting ... I really haven’t made up my mind yet,” said Pat Farrington of Poulsbo following a forum at the WestCoast Silverdale Hotel.

The forum offered up both sides of the measure that if passed would generate $7.7 billion during the next 10 years for more than 80 transportation projects statewide.

Nov. 5 voters will decide on a 9-cent gas tax increase proponents said will bring the state out of its transportation crisis.

“This is a new step. This is a new day for our state.” said Liz Pierini, former Washington State League of Women Voters president.

Opponents said Ref. 51 is a drop in a deep bucket.

“We need a better option than the expensive Band-aid of Referendum 51,” said Virginia Gunby from 1000 Friends of Washington and Seattle league member. The Seattle-based Friends seeks to stop urban sprawl and manage growth.

She said the $7.7 billion is one of many referendums the state needs to fix its transportation woes. “Mega” projects such as the I-405 expansion would not be completed with this money Gunby said. She questioned if the more than $300 million would be enough to purchase four ferries as the plan outlines.

“All of these are badly needed,” Pierini said as she talked about some of the projects pertinent to Kitsap County including two passenger-only ferries.

The state she said has not been keeping up with maintenance construction of roads, but Gunby said otherwise.

“We have been building roads for the past 20 years,” Gunby said who went on to say once the new roads are built they fill to capacity.

Her primary concern with Ref. 51 is it cuts funding for alternative methods of transportation from 30 percent — as recommended by the Transportation Commission’s Blue Ribbon Committee — to 15 percent.

Pierini argued that money to the ferries, HOV lanes and transit systems encouraged mass transit rather than solo driving.

“We should be delighted. It’s troubling to me the people who are concerned with the environment consider this a failure. This is a big victory. We should be celebrating this,” she said.

Gunby likened the plan to a thin layer of peanut butter spread across the state’s political strongholds.

If the measure is rejected, Pierini said it would mean a devastating blow to the state’s economy.

“If it fails we have nothing,” she said.

BOX: Kitsap County projects funded through Ref. 51

• SR3/Waaga Way Interchange Ramp — $5 million

• SR 304 Bremerton Gateway Project/ additional terminal lanes — $11.million.

• Replaces Purdy Creek Bridge on State Highway 101 — $6 million

• Replaces four 1927-era ferries — $322 million

• Adds lanes to SR 305 in Poulsbo — $9.55 million

• Two passenger ferries and terminals — $51.3 million, operations $48 million 2004-2013.

• Kitsap Transit $35.6 million over 10 yea

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