Report: Maintaining I-5 through 2040 will cost state billions

The Interstate 5 (I-5) corridor through the Puget Sound region will be costly for the state to maintain over the next few decades.

A draft report by the Puget Sound Regional Council details what work will likely be required between now and 2040.

Preserving pavement alone will cost an estimated $1.2 billion. Maintaining the state’s bridges, drainage, electrical, and barriers will cost an additional $1.3 billion.

“Compare this with approximately $14 billion of estimated statewide preservation needs through 2040, and I-5 in the Puget Sound corridor is 18 percent or almost one-fifth of the total statewide preservation needs,” the report says.

And there are risks that go along with the preservation. The three greatest being: lack of funding; balanced delivery; and “regional transportation system demand.”

Unfortunately for the state — and taxpayers — this is an unavoidable expense.

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The information is an appendix to the Vision 2040 plan. In a draft update to the plan, the regional council projects 5 million people will live in the Puget Sound region by 2040 and the number of workers is expected to increase by approximately 40 percent, the Daily Herald reports.

Alternative modes of transportation will only maintain our current traffic situation, rather than actually improve it, making it necessary for the state to keep these lanes open to traffic. Light rail, for example, will add "person-moving capacity we don't have," a UW transportation researcher told KIRO 7. But light rail and expanded bus service won't come near meeting the need of a region with a booming population.

According to a recent report by the state, the commute from Everett to Seattle takes several minutes longer now than it did just a few years ago. To guarantee drivers get to their destination on time during the weekdays, they have to give themselves about 1.5 hours, according to the report.

In total, the Herald reports, the state needs about $40 billion in order to meet the region's transportation and infrastructure needs. The most likely methods of acquiring that money include taxes from a pay-per-mile program (which the state is currently piloting); a carbon tax (which Inslee is now pushing for); motor vehicle excise tax; paid parking; and other fees.

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