Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
News Conference to Kickoff Summer Road Construction
May 12, 2004

Thank you all for coming this morning.

Joining me today are Chief Lowell Porter, chief of the Washington State Patrol; Paula Hammond, chief of staff of the Washington State Department of Transportation; Dave Gossett of the Snohomish County Council; Mayor Ray Stephanson of Everett; Mayor Terry Ryan of Mill Creek; and Bob Dyer, project manager of the Everett HOV lane expansion.

We are here today to celebrate the kickoff of the summer road construction season in Washington. And what a great season it is going to be! Only the recent performance of the Everett Silvertips hockey team can rival what we will accomplish this year on our state’s highways.

Transportation Accomplishments/Nickel Package

We’re finally making great progress on transportation.

In 1998, I created the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation. The commission conducted a comprehensive analysis of statewide transportation needs and priorities. They developed a landmark package of reforms, efficiencies, and improved accountability. They released their recommendations in fall 2000. We enacted virtually all their suggestions in the next 1 ½ years. And the Washington State Department of Transportation has done a great job improving its efficiency and accountability under the leadership of Secretary Doug MacDonald. Many projects are now coming in under budget and ahead of schedule.

Securing a new transportation funding source was one of my top priorities these last few years. I vowed that we would not end the 2003 Legislative session without it. And we did not. I was very pleased to work with the Legislature on a $4.2 billion, ten-year transportation financing package. We're using this money to deliver 103 critical transportation projects throughout our state. Many of these projects are already under construction. In fact, by year’s end 30 projects will be underway. The improvements in the “nickel funding package” will help break through traffic chokepoints and make travel on our roads safer. It will speed up commutes, improve freight mobility across the state, replace up to four auto ferries built back in 1927, and improve public transportation and passenger rail.

Snohomish County Projects

The project you see behind us is a great example of how hard our Washington State Department of Transportation is working. This project will double the capacity of the Bothell-Everett Highway, increasing traffic flow. New left-turn lanes will increase safety. Improving this crucial north-south corridor will ease the morning and evening commutes and ensure a higher level of traffic safety.

I am proud to say that this project will finish this summer, ahead of schedule.

But we need to extend this enw wider four-lane highway all the way to Paine Field. This summer, a “nickel project” to extend the widening of the Bothell-Everett Highway all the way from I-5 will begin. Indeed, we’re going to be starting 1 year sooner than planned, and it will take only 18 months. This will further increase capacity and safety. Bicycle lanes and sidewalks will also be added to create a more livable community.

Another great Snohomish County project is the Everett HOV lane expansion. This will help to fix one of Western Washington’s worst chokepoints, Seattle to Everett. It will improve mobility, increase traffic flow and enhance safety. I am pleased that the project was fast-tracked by the state Legislature earlier this year. Now construction will begin in fall 2005.

Commuters will benefit from this project. Carpoolers and transit riders get a dedicated lane with exclusive entrance and exit ramps. HOV lanes will help the traffic flow in the general purpose lanes as well. We are also widening the general purpose lanes and widening or replacing 19 bridges. This expansion is key to moving products and people in the economically important Everett area. And let’s remember, the plan to expand I-5 was a key component to the success of Boeing’s 7E7 plan.

The lane expansion will be complete before the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, BC. We can expect many, many tourists to make the trip from Vancouver to Washington state (and vice versa) for shopping, lodging, and tourism.

I want to recognize the new project director for the HOV lane expansion, Bob Dyer. Bob will head the design-build effort for this project. The design-build system will shorten the time to get the expansion finished. This will result in saved money and faster benefits. Bob played a large role in the road preparations for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Bob is quite a star in the transportation industry. We are very lucky to have him here leading this project.

Give ‘em a Brake

As the busy season begins for road construction, I want to remind drivers to drive safely through work zones.

If motorists see orange signs, orange cones, or orange barriers, that means people in orange vests are ahead. Whenever driving through a work zone, follow the directions of the message boards and flaggers - slow down, and give 'em a brake.

These workers are doing their best to improve our state’s roads so we can enjoy better traffic flow and greater safety. Let’s all work together to prevent any accidents in work zones this year.

And it’s worth your while to be careful for financial reasons as well. Traffic fines are doubled in work zones when workers are present.

So please drive carefully. A work zone shouldn’t be a war zone.

We have a great season of work planned. This summer’s projects will help citizens in our state work more efficiently and commute more safely. Please drive carefully, and watch your nickel work!

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