Lawmakers say agreement on new gas tax is near

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- State lawmakers say they're getting close to an agreement that would raise gas taxes anywhere from 10-11 cents a gallon. The governor stands ready to call a special session when an agreement is reached.

The $9-12 billion raised would go to finishing several highways that sit incomplete and widening I-5 in front of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, among many other projects.

The ports of Seattle and Tacoma are jammed with truck traffic. There's no easy way in or out of either.

"Passing this transportation package this year is dire," SeaTac deputy mayor Mia Gregerson told a state senate committee Thursday. Regional leaders urged lawmakers to act quickly before the next regular session in January. Key is the completion of Highway 167 and Highway 509 connecting them to I-5.

The legislature recently gave Boeing tax breaks to entice building the 777X in the Puget Sound area. The mayor of Everett said getting a transportation plan passed in the next several weeks is also vital now that there's no promise of Boeing locating here.

"I think passing this transportation package is going to be critical to our potential success in landing the assembly of the 777X," said Mayor Ray Stephanson.

The other key element of the proposed plan is the widening of I-5 as it passes along JBLM. It constricts from 4 down to three lanes in each direction.

"The 60 year-old design of I-5 is inadequate to sustain today's volume of traffic," said Lakewood mayor Don Anderson.

Key lawmakers just met with the governor and say they're close to an agreement.

"Just a couple of things, small things," said State Sen. Tracey Eide, transportation committee co-chair. "But big enough that it takes a little bit of time. But we're close."

Rep. Judy Clibborn, who also chairs the transportation committee, says her goal is to get the agreement done before the next session.

"I don't have a deadline because we're still moving and every day we move," she said. "But I don't see that we're going to get it done by this weekend."

The plan put forth by the Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate also includes no tolls on Interstate 90, and pays for a new floating bridge on State Road 520. It also seeks to redirect sales tax money from transportation projects to a transportation fund instead of the general fund, and transfers money out of an environmental cleanup account.

The Associated Press contributed to this report