LAKE STEVENS, Wash. – Tolls are one of the options on the table to give more room to drivers who now crawl along U.S. Highway 2 between Everett and Lake Stevens.
The Washington State Department of Transportation says the gas tax doesn’t raise enough money to fund projects like this and many others that need attention across the state.
“We can’t afford the toll and it’s not the right solution for the surrounding areas,” said state lawmaker Mark Harmsworth, who has been a loud voice of opposing tolling on the highway.
But WSDOT says tolling is just one of several options it suggested to lawmakers to replace the aging and crowded westbound lanes.
Snohomish County is already seeing massive growth. And by 2035 WSDOT says another 200,000 people will call this part of Puget Sound home.
The report delivered to lawmakers last month gives several funding options to fix the problem.
Now it’s up to state legislators to decide whether it’ll be federal grants, tolls, increased gas tax, public-private partnerships or a mixture of them all to pay for the upgrades.
“We need to spread the burden across the whole of the county and all the users, that’s the first part of this,” said Harmsworth.
The lawmaker says he would like to see more collaboration from area employers and the Port of Everett to come up with ways to cover the cost.
If all the fancy bells and whistles are added to the project, WSDOT says, it could end up costing close to $2 billion to replace the westbound lanes.
“Whatever we do, it needs to go back to the people for a vote,” said Harmsworth. “This is a large project, and I want to see people weigh in during this to see how we can pay for this.”
WSDOT says this project is still in the very early stages of development. Before construction can even break ground, the state will first conduct investigative studies and get feedback from people who use the trestle every day.