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Interchange shortchanged

The Simdars interchange is not on the top of anyone's priority list, state Rep. Kevin Van De Wege told the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce at its meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 8.

"I think it needs to be completed, but it's not going to happen anytime soon," he said.

Van De Wege, D-Sequim, represents the 24th District that includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and one third of Grays Harbor County. He will begin his fourth year in the state Legislature when the 60-day session opens on Jan. 12.



$7 million short

The city's six-year Transportation Improvement Plan lists the Simdars interchange for construction in 2012, but the $7 million project has no funding.

Van De Wege told the chamber that the project must get back onto priority lists to have any chance of getting funded.

Funding is protected for the U.S. Highway 101 widening project set to begin in 2011, he said. That $50 million project will widen the 2.5-mile stretch of highway to four lanes from Shore Road to Kitchen-Dick Road.

An Oct. 15 open house on the project is scheduled at Greywolf Elementary School, 171 Carlsborg Road.

Construction is going very well on a new ferry for the Port Townsend-Keystone run, Van De Wege said. State ferry officials hope to have the $65.5 million vessel completed by June 30, 2010.

Van De Wege said the highlight of the 2009 legislative session was getting a response tugboat permanently stationed at Neah Bay and funding it. Most of the 42 vessels assisted by the tugboat during the past 10 years were cargo ships, not oil tankers. But they still carry bunker fuel that is ruinous to the environment, so the shipping industry created a funding cooperative, he said.

"Nothing would kill real estate values faster than a big oil spill in the Strait of Juan de Fuca."

Van De Wege is a big proponent of state parks and several would have closed for lack of funding, Van De Wege said. So the option to add $5 to the cost of license plate tabs was changed to an option to decline paying the extra $5.

He is working on a bill to prohibit feeding of seven species of wildlife, which would become a civil infraction similar to a parking ticket. The Humane Society and PAWS also are working on the bill, he said.

Two other issues he is pursuing are getting rid of illegal buoys that harm shellfish harvests and requiring vegetation management along utility lines.



Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.

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