10-25-2016  12:03 pm      •     
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TACOMA — Gov. Chris Gregoire is looking for ways to link with private contractors to design and build expensive new road and bridge projects, probably using tolls to help pay for them.
Projects could include widening Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass, a new Columbia River bridge at Vancouver and a replacement span across Lake Washington.
The governor wants the Legislature to approve a $2 million public-private partnership, with contractors invited to submit proposals and the Department of Transportation assigned to evaluate them.
Gregoire and the state Transportation Commission say some of Washington's transportation needs are beyond the state's financial means and that tolls are likely to be part of the solution.
The Legislature created a similar partnership a decade ago, developing six proposals, including a new State Route 520 bridge across Lake Washington and a second Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Eventually all but the Narrows Bridge project were rejected after public outcries, and the $849 million bridge is being financed by the state, largely to be repaid with tolls, rather than by the builder.
Gregoire said tolls probably would be too difficult and expensive to collect on a replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle, but she is holding open the idea of putting tolls on the 520 bridge. Regional planners assume about $800 million in tolls could help pay for the $4.4 billion bridge.
The state also is eying tolls to help finance a major improvement and widening of a 15-mile stretch of I-90 in the Snoqualmie Pass area. The first phase of the project has an updated pricetag of $525 million, well above the $388 million appropriation.
Jeff Doyle of the DOT project office said that if lawmakers approve the governor's request, the state will invite builders to submit ideas later this year and the agency will evaluate them next year.
—The Associated Press

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