A news release I just received from the governor’s office:

TACOMA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed the $7.5 billion transportation budget for the 2009-2011 biennium, which includes the largest two-year construction budget ever for the Washington State Department of Transportation. Gregoire noted that Legislative budget writers estimate the projects approved in this bill are expected to support or create 49,000 jobs.

“This budget couldn’t have come at a better time,” Gregoire said. “Not only will it greatly improve our transportation system, the projects I’m signing off on will ensure regular employment for tens of thousands of Washingtonians. This is a huge win for the entire state of Washington. We’re creating safer, more efficient ways of travel – while getting our economy back on track.”

Gregoire signed the historic package in Tacoma, where – as a result of this budget – additional High-Occupancy-Vehicle lanes will be constructed on Interstate 5. In addition, the budget appropriates funding to make improvements to Pierce County’s state Route 16 Nalley Valley Viaduct.

“I can’t think of a more fitting location than Pierce County to sign this budget,” Gregoire said. “Your Nalley Valley Viaduct project encompasses everything we set out do this past legislative session when it comes to transportation. It puts people to work, it reduces congestion, and it ensures our commerce moves quickly to keep our businesses thriving.”

Highlights of the transportation package include: Funding for three 64-car ferries and a fourth, which will either be a 64-car or 144-car ferry; Funding for critical safety, freight, and mobility projects – including I-90/Snoqualmie Pass, I-405 and the North Spokane corridor; Consolidation of licensing services offices, creating cost savings and better customer service; and increased highway patrols for DUI enforcement

In addition to the transportation budget bill, the Legislature also approved legislation to fund the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a deep bored tunnel. Lawmakers also appropriated funding to replace the state Route 520 bridge.

“Every one of these projects benefits the entire state,” Gregoire said. “By making Washington a safe place to commute, and a more efficient place to do business, we are staying competitive in the changing economy.”

Gregoire recognized Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, (D-Camano Island), and Representative Judy Clibborn, (D-Mercer Island), who chaired the House and Senate Transportation committees, for their leadership in getting the transportation budget passed.

“This was a tough legislative session,” said Haugen. “But this was the bright spot. This transportation budget achieves what we all set out to do. It improves our roads and bridges while ensuring jobs for thousands of Washingtonians.”

“The transportation budget is the good news in an otherwise bad-news budget year,” said Clibborn. “This record investment will create jobs and improve our infrastructure at the time we need it most.”

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