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Whew! Bill Passes to Prevent SR 520 Work Stoppage

The Governor is expected to sign AGC-backed legislation that preserves 900 construction jobs. The bill keeps work on the new SR 520 floating bridge going despite a lawsuit filed by environmental groups.

If the bill had not passed during the waning days of the legislative session construction on the pontoons in Aberdeen and the anchors in Tacoma would have ceased and construction on the 520 bridge on the lake itself would have been delayed from its scheduled spring start. This would have meant the loss of the hundreds of construction jobs currently in place and added about $165 million in costs for a years delay.

It was tense for a while when it looked like the bill would have a hard time overcoming House leadership opposition to get to the House floor for a vote said AGC lobbyist Duke Schaub. But with the backing of AGC and the business community House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn made a great effort to rally support. This and Gov. Gregoires intervention on behalf of the bill got it to the floor where it passed overwhelmingly.

In February neighborhood and environment groups filed a lawsuit claiming WSDOT failed to consider all reasonable alternatives when it decided to build a wider and taller floating bridge to replace the current bridge thus violating the states Shoreline Management Act — which is the only environmental law requiring when litigation is filed that all construction stop pending hearings before the Shorelines Appeals Board.

The measure HB 2814 does not prevent the litigation from progressing but it exempts the SR 520 project from the work stoppage requirement.

While pleased that the measure passed AGC is concerned that it was necessary in the first place. The environmental groups lawsuit despite years of analysis regarding the project and their attempts to prevent passage of the bill highlight an inclination away from consensus and toward obstruction with regard to broad transportation goals. AGC will work to address this trend which could become even more significant as the state develops a major transportation funding package.

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