By Stefanie Donahue
In anticipation of the 2018 legislative session beginning in January, Blaine City Council voted for state lawmakers to prioritize two major infrastructure projects for Blaine.
By a 5–0 vote on November 27, the city council requested the state legislature allocate funding for the I-5/Exit 274 project and to extend utilities to Blaine’s eastern city limits. “These two elements are our primary legislative goals and objectives,” said Blaine city manager Dave Wilbrecht. “I know these are important projects to the council.”
The 2018 legislative goals agenda is a guiding document and does not include a specific funding request for the I-5/Exit 274 project. Wilbrecht said the city will start working with the Washington State Department of Transportation this week to determine costs and will eventually submit a funding request to the state legislature. For the east Blaine utility extension, the city is requesting $3.2 million in capital funding.
This year, Blaine’s legislative agenda is much shorter than last year’s which, in addition to the I-5/Exit 274 project and east Blaine utility extension, also prioritized the relocation of the Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (VACIS), the reinstatement of the passenger train stop in Blaine and an increase to the one-cent per gallon gas tax.
None of the city’s 2017 projects received funding. Although the legislature approved funding for the first phase of the I-5/Exit 274 project in the state’s transportation bill, Governor Jay Inslee later gave it a line-item veto, citing a lack of information. The state legislature also turned down a request from the city to allocate $3.4 million to extend utilities to the east end of Blaine’s city limits.
The utility extension project involves the construction of an estimated 10,200 feet of wastewater main through three development projects: Bridges Plat, East Maple Ridge and Grandis Pond. The projects have all received approval to build, but await sewer and power infrastructure.
To bolster their chances of success, the city hired consultants from Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs last May. Consultants Briahna Murray and Hanna Jones wrote the Blaine City Council, detailing what to expect this January.
The letter stated that adopting the 17-19 capital budget will be one of the top priorities this session and that there are “limited opportunities to fund new projects,” such as the east Blaine utility extension.
Murray and Jones said they would strive “to take advantage of the limited opportunities for funding available in 2018, but will also lay the groundwork to successfully secure funding in 2019.”
State legislators are also slated to amend to the transportation budgets that were adopted last session and will focus on implementing the Connecting Washington Transportation Package, a gas tax package that was passed in 2015 and makes investments over a 16-year period, Murray and Jones said.
“[We] will work with the city’s legislative delegation to get Exit 274 inserted into this 16-year schedule,” read the letter. “We anticipate that this will be challenging, but not impossible.”