County Commissioners back Referendum 51

Although the county commissioners unanimously endorsed Referendum 51 on Monday, their reasons for doing so were varied.

Ref-51 is the $7.7 billion state transportation spending plan on the general election ballot in November.

It relies on a 9-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase and a 1 percent surcharge on the purchase of any new or used vehicle. Weight fee increases of 30 percent would also be phased in over two years for trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds.

R-51 supporters say state residents will receive much-needed road and highway improvements and safety improvements statewide and a retooled ferry system.

“Referendum 51 is not a panacea,” said NK County Commissioner Chris Endresen. “It won’t cover every improvement that needs to be made today, but we have to invest in our future.

“But it’s clearly up to the voters,” she said. “We’ve heard from them in the last few years, and they want a chance to vote.”

SK Commissioner Jan Angel, agreed the funding package doesn’t address all transportation woes.

“I wished more would be going to roads and ferries under the plan,” Angel said. “But this is about safety and economic development. I wish it were a stronger plan, but I support it.”

CK Commissioner Tim Botkin said his support is based on an analysis that shows Kitsap commuters would probably get more return for the tax dollars than citizens in other jurisdictions.

“Overall, for Kitsap County, it’s a step,” Botkin said. “And in my book, it’s a good step.”

Mike Watkins, an SK resident, said he isn’t sure he can support the referendum.

“I’d go for an even larger gas tax increase, if I’d feel it was effective,” said Watkins, who commutes via the freeway to his Seattle job. “Something different needs to happen before I could commit. I don’t want to pour good dollars after bad.”

Watkins said more efficiencies need to be put into place at the state Department of Transportation in planning, permitting and studies.

Sen. Bob Oke, a R-Port Orchard, attended the commissioners meeting as well. He wore a “Vote Yes on R-51” sticker.

“We’ve got to move forward on this,” Oke said. “I heard it said that this is the most important vote since statehood.”

Oke said the Legislature should have approved the funding package during the last session in Olympia rather than putting it to a vote.

“We want this to be a better place and we’re going to have to pay for it,” he said.

Improvements to Kitsap County and to the ferries under R-51 are:

• $5 million to help develop an interchange from SR 3 to SR 303, and the widening of Kitsap Mall Boulevard and Clear Creek Road.

• $11 million in state money to the widen SR 304 from the Bremerton ferry terminal to SR 3, and the addition of HOV lanes.

• $14.4 million to construct a lane in each direction of SR 305 from the Poulsbo City limits to Bond Road for off-peak, general purpose use and peak-hour HOV use. Bike lanes and sidewalks would be added.

• $3.4 million to widen State Route 16 to Long Lake Road.

• The state would contribute $276,000 for the design and right-of-way work on a fish passage project on SR 305.

• Four new auto ferries would be constructed to replace pre-Depression-era vessels in the state ferry fleet. Cost: $322 million.

• $99 million would expand passenger-only ferry service by opening two new routes; one between Kingston and downtown Seattle and the other between Southworth and downtown Seattle. Funding would be provided to acquire and preserve two used passenger ferries, construct a passenger terminal at Southworth, improve facilities at Kingston and Seattle and operate the service from FY 2004-2013.

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