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Rodney Tom’s 520 bill passes Senate, but real test coming in House

State Senator Rodney Tom. - Submitted photo
State Senator Rodney Tom.
— image credit: Submitted photo

The state Senate today overwhelmingly passed a bill that would free up future tolling money from the 520 bridge for shovel-ready construction projects on the Eastside portion of the corridor.

That proposal may lose momentum once it reaches the House, where Speaker Frank Chopp has joined a group of other Seattle leaders, including the city's mayor, to oppose the state's preferred plan for renovating 520.

The corridor makeover, which is expected to cost between $4.4 billion and $4.5 billion, will take place in separate east and west phases.

Projects on the Eastside will include adding an inside HOV lane in both directions from Medina to SR 202 in Redmond, building a new direct-access interchange for transit and HOV at 108th Ave. NE, constructing three new highway lids to connect neighborhoods divided by the corridor, and creating a bicycle/pedestrian path along the north side of 520.

Tom's bill would authorize the state to use what is now restricted tolling money to begin construction on those projects.

Supporters of the bill, including Rep. Ross Hunter, of Medina, say the state needs to take advantage of a favorable bidding climate by starting the work soon.

Chopp opposes the state's preferred 520-renovation plan because of what it entails for the west end of the corridor. He says it lacks mitigation for local neighborhoods and would tie up transit traffic moving to the future University of Washington light rail station.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has said the state should revamp its preferred plan to exchange the two carpool lanes with dedicated transit lanes.

A contingent of regional business, labor, and government leaders on Feb. 5 urged lawmakers to move forward with the plan regardless of opposition. The group included representatives from both Seattle and the Eastside.

Sen. Rodney Tom, of Medina, sponsored the senate bill that passed today by a vote of 44-3.

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