Transportaion issues top city's 2014 legislative agenda

As the Washington State Legislature prepares for this year’s session to begin on Jan. 13, transportation issues once again top the City of Renton’s legislative agenda.

“That continues to be the most important priority for the city,” said Renton Communications Director Preeti Shridhar.

Shridhar said the city continues to urge the legislature to pass a funding package that will lead to the upgrade of both the Interstate 405/state Route 167 interchange but helps expand the entire corridor, which she called a “major freight corridor.”

With Boeing once again ramping up production of 737s in Renton, the company has told the city that any delay in receiving parts or supplies could have a multiplier effect on the company’s budget.

The interchange is also considered the most congested in the state and Shridhar said studies have shown that capacity upgrades to the system has the highest return-on-investment as far as reducing congestion of any other transportation need in the state.

Shridhar also said that increases congestion on the highway leads to increased traffic – and therefore damage – to the city’s surface streets.

Another top priority for the city during this year’s legislative session is to urge legislators to re-distribute liquor excise tax funds to cities the way it was prior to a change in 2013.

Shridhar called the money “very critical” and said the loss of that money means a hit of about $250,000 to the city’s law enforcement budget.

“We’re really urging this liquor excise tax (distribution) be re-instated,” she said, adding that since the privatization of liquor sales there has been an increase in thefts and other impacts, funding for which the city is forced to make up.

The city is also urging the legislature to consolidate laws and regulations on retail and medical marijuana use. Though regulations are being developed for retail  marijuana sales, the state-wide initiative that legalized the recreational use of the substance did not address the medical marijuana system approved by voters years earlier, creating a two-tired system.

Shridhar said the city would like to see a single set of regulations accessible to both sides of the business.

“There needs to be a standard that’s established,” she said.

The 2014 Washington Legislative Session is scheduled to run from Jan. 13 to March 13.

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