The state Senate on March 29 overwhelming approved ESB 5323 sponsored by Sen. Curtis King (R-14) in 48-1 vote, after a striker amendment altered its impact on toll revenue bonding authority for the Puget Sound Gateway as well as for Interstate 405 and State Route 167.
King told colleagues that the amendment “does impact the initial thought of this bill, but it still helps us make the point.”
ESSB 5825, enacted in 2019, authorized bonding for toll revenue in order to speed up the construction of the Puget Sound Gateway. The bill drew protests from some legislators on the basis that it would lead to permanent traffic congestion on those tolled lanes in order to keep rates high enough to meet debt obligations[AH1] .
ESB 5323 originally would have repealed that authority entirely, but the striker amendment introduced on the Senate floor by Senate Transportation Committee Vice Chair Rebecca Saldaña (D-37) replaced it with other bill language that does the following:
- Prohibits the sale of toll revenue bonds on any of the facilities until Jan. 1, 2023;
- Prohibits the sale of toll revenue for Interstate 405 and State Route 167 until quarterly toll revenues are $8.5 million or the State Treasurer concludes they can meet financial obligations; and
- Prohibits the sale of toll revenue for the Puget Sound Gateway until the State Treasurer confirms it can meet financial obligations.
Saldaña said the amendment “keeps our commitment to make sure that we are being fiscally responsible but also balances that with the importance of being able to keep our projects moving. This particular project around I-405 and I-167 is critical in order to get our…rapid transit. We can grow in a way that works for our region.”
Senate Transportation Committee Chair Steve Hobbs (D-44) also spoke in favor of the bill, saying “we are in a precarious situation when it comes to these projects. I feel the revenues will go back sooner rather than later and we can get these projects back on track.”
ESB 5323 will now be referred to a House committee.