Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Gov. Gary Locke’s remarks to Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce
June 18, 2002

Thank you, John [Plovie, Board Chairman], for that kind introduction. It is always great to be here at the Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce.

The Redmond-Woodinville area is one of the most economically thriving regions in our state. The presence of many successful businesses, both large and small, helps make this region a major fuel source for our economic engine.

But like an automobile, work must be done to keep the engine running smoothly. And the single, most important thing we can do to keep our state’s competitive edge is to enact a long-term transportation plan that fixes the congestion choking our economy.

Two years ago, I came before you to urge support for the anticipated Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations. Now, after two years all focused intently on transportation, we've got results. But the biggest result decision in November with Referendum 51.

We know demand and population growth has outstripped investment. Investing in our transportation system now will put people to work and keep our economy moving for years to come. Improving our transportation system enables employers to be more competitive, improves freight mobility, provides lasting economic development opportunities in rural and urban areas, cuts congestion, and yes, it will improve highway safety for all of us.

Not too long ago, Moody’s, a major investment service and bond rating firm, noted that any further delay on transportation projects threatens Washington’s long-term economic growth. That’s not only jobs for today’s workers, but also jobs for our kids.

One of the first steps we’ve taken to improve our economic engine is to ensure a more efficient Department of Transportation. WSDOT has two new tools to speed up the delivery of projects: environmental permit streamlining and design-build contracting.

Through an omnibus transportation reform bill sought by my office -- that I signed into law last January -- WSDOT will have the authority to contract with the private sector for a host of design and engineering construction services that previously were limited to DOT employees only. This will help ensure faster project delivery.

Many other reforms, efficiencies and steps toward greater accountability have been enacted. In fact, with two exceptions -- a ban on studded tires and executive appointment of the DOT secretary -- we’ve acted on every one of the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations for transportation. The one recommendation that remains… the one that will have a huge effect on the future of our economy and quality of life… is funding the list of critical highway, bridge, ferry, rail and transit improvements.

This fall, voters in our state will face the single most important question in generations. Will we invest in our future or lose jobs and economic competitiveness? Will existing businesses grow and expand here? Will we make our roads and bridges safer for those who travel them?

While I would have preferred a vote in Olympia when our legislature was in session, this measure will be decided by the people. Senator Slade Gorton and I have been working very hard to get the R51 campaign underway.

I am also very pleased that the Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce unanimously voted to endorse both R-51 and a regional transportation package. Your backing of these proposals and your efforts to ensure their passage represent the kind of support that is necessary to persuade voters of the necessity of these projects.

The passage of Referendum 51 will result in thousands of new jobs. If the regional transportation investments are added in, there will be well over 20,000 family wage jobs created and sustained for several years. Family wage jobs for laid off workers eager to return to work. Furthermore, the better transportation system that will result from R-51 improvements will help spawn new businesses and many family wage jobs for years to come.

It will improve road safety. It will clear traffic congestion chokepoints. It will improve freight mobility. It will stimulate our state’s economy.

We now have a blueprint for a brighter economic future and a better quality of life. We must work together to make that future a reality.

Let’s talk for a moment about some of the transportation improvements that R-51 will bring to the Eastside.

Projects you’ll see include:

  • $100 million for improvements on SR 520 between Seattle and Bellevue.

  • $70 million toward widening SR 520 in Redmond to an eight lane roadway including auxiliary lanes, ramp realignment and HOV lanes, and construction of five new bridges to improve highway access. This project will improve traffic flow on SR 520 near the Lake Sammamish Parkway to SR 202.

  • $1.5 billion to get started on major improvements to 405, adding lanes, reworking interchanges and fixing other chokepoints along the corridor.

  • $10 million for the I-90 center-lane (R8A) project, to help get commuters across Lake Washington faster -- east and west.

  • $50 million for corridor improvements to SR9 north toward Snohomish, and $40 million more to add two lanes to SR 522 from Woodinville to the Snohomish River toward Monroe.

  • In addition to these and other highway and bridge projects, King County will receive $8.4 million, Snohomish County $5.1 million, Bellevue $2.9 million, Kirkland 1.2 million and Redmond $1.2 million to improve roadway maintenance and preservation.

  • And, while we know road improvements are critical, we must also use the transportation system we’ve got more efficiently. That’s where additional funding for park and ride lots, car and van pools, and transit come in. The more people per vehicle (be it bus, van, or car), the faster all of our commutes will be.

As you can tell, a lot is at stake for this region and our state in November. If we don’t step up to the plate, two things are certain: jobs and businesses will expand or relocate somewhere else, and the cost of these projects will just get more and more expensive. It’s up to us. There are only two choices: move forward or do nothing!

Transportation improvements are the most important step to maintaining our economic competitiveness. However, I’m pleased to report that we were successful in winning passage of many of the other recommendations from the Washington Competitiveness Council -- which I convened last year to find the best ways to keep our state’s businesses thriving.

We won legislation to improve equity and fairness in our unemployment insurance system. Business should pay into it what they get out of it.

We also were able to clarify the taxation of investment income and to create a permit assistance center in the governor’s office.

I’ve worked hard to build partnerships with the business community, to make sure state government is helping businesses thrive. Because our businesses are the backbone of our society. When our businesses thrive, our communities thrive and when our communities thrive, our families thrive.

Its important that in designing strategies for economic recovery, we think not only about the short-term need to get people to work and into the stores, but also about the long-term requirements for a strong economic foundation: a modern, reliable transportation system, great schools producing students who can meet challenges of 21st century workforce, a vibrant, entrepreneurial business climate, and a pristine environment and great quality of life.

I want to thank every business leader here today for the jobs you provide for our citizens and for enhancing our quality of life. Together, we will continue to make Washington a great place to live, work and raise a family.

Thank you, very much, for inviting me to join you today.
Related Links:
- Washington State Department of Transportation
- Proposed Referendum Bills - 2002
- Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce
- Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation

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