Senate and House approve final budget, agree on bridge funding
OLYMPIA…The 2017-19 transportation budget adopted by the Legislature includes $2 million toward replacement of the US 2/West Cashmere Bridge.
“I am thrilled that the budget negotiators kept the Senate-proposed funding in the final transportation budget,” said Sen. Brad Hawkins, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee. “I had been assured that the project would be included in the compromise package, but you never actually know until all the work is finished.”
The House approved the final budget yesterday, and the Senate did so this evening. The $2 million legislative appropriation raises the combination of federal, state and local funding commitments to a total of $20 million. Replacing the 85-year-old bridge, which carries Goodwin Road over the BNSF rail line and the Wenatchee River west of Cashmere, is expected to cost $23 million.
Hawkins credited a meeting between local ambassadors and the Senate and House transportation committee chairs as the key to securing this level of support outside of a gas-tax package. Representatives from the county, city, school district, port, transportation council and Crunch Pak joined him and the 12th District’s state representatives at the Capitol a month ago to make the case for funding to replace the bridge.
“Our local leaders did a fabulous job with their presentation, and we kept up our advocacy. We have very talented and respected people in our area. This just goes to show what we can accomplish together,” said Hawkins. “At the beginning of this whole effort, I knew there was a chance we would come up short and get nothing. Instead, we gained renewed interest in this project and two million bucks.”
Weight restrictions already force heavy trucks to move through downtown Cashmere – including some 250 trucks per week associated with Crunch Pak, the packaged-fruit company that is the city’s largest employer. Also, the bridge represents a primary route for emergency responders because traffic isn’t halted by trains.
The project has long been a high priority with local officials, who worry the US 2/West Cashmere Bridge may fail to the point of closure within five years. Federal and local funding commitments were made, however, the bridge was not included in the Legislature’s 2015 “Connecting Washington” package of transportation projects.
“I believe this appropriation gives new momentum to this important project, and that can only help in securing the remaining funding from other sources,” he added, mentioning freight-mobility grants as an example.
“I have been in close communications with our local officials throughout the session, and I believe we have strong leads on opportunities to close the remaining funding gap and actually get this done,” said Hawkins.