While the Legislature this week appropriated billions for such Puget Sound "mega-projects" as the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Highway 520 bridge...

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While the Legislature this week appropriated billions for such Puget Sound “mega-projects” as the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Highway 520 bridge, they won’t get built unless regional voters approve yet another round of tax increases.

And some Puget Sound transportation leaders say the Legislature went home without giving them the tools to craft a package voters might accept.

“The job was half-done by the Legislature,” said Pierce County Councilman Calvin Goings, D-Puyallup, a member of the board of the three-county Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID).

A bill revamping the RTID died when the Legislature adjourned Sunday night. The legislation included changes the board had sought to give any plan it proposes a better chance of passing.

“It’s unfortunate, because [existing law] doesn’t give us enough flexibility,” said Snohomish County Councilman Dave Gossett, D-Mountlake Terrace, another board member.

“I believe it’s a hindrance to try to go to the ballot with a package that complies with our authorizing legislation as it’s currently written,” said Metropolitan King County Councilwoman Julia Patterson, D-SeaTac, another board member.

But the Legislature convenes again in January, and the RTID board doesn’t plan to put anything on the ballot until November 2006. House Transportation Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle, while expressing disappointment the bill didn’t pass, said there’s still time for lawmakers to make changes.

“I’m looking forward to negotiating with all the players in the region,” he said. “When this thing goes to a vote, we can’t afford to have it lose.”

If the changes aren’t made, Goings said, he won’t support putting anything on the ballot next year because it wouldn’t pass.

The $8.5 billion statewide transportation package the Legislature approved Sunday — financed mostly by gas-tax increases — includes $2 billion and $500 million, respectively, for replacements for the viaduct and 520 bridge.

While significant, those sums would pay half or less of the projects’ estimated costs. Legislators expect King County taxpayers would pick up most of the remainder.

The new statewide package also gives the region a deadline: Pass something by January 2007, or risk losing the new state mega-project funding to other projects.

That timetable isn’t a problem, said Metropolitan King County Councilman David Irons, R-Sammamish, another RTID board member: “I am eager to move forward and finish what the state started.”

The RTID board had proposed a host of changes in its 2002 authorizing legislation. Among them: permission to impose a steeper motor-vehicle excise tax so it wouldn’t have to propose a package that relies primarily on a sales-tax increase, widely considered the least-popular revenue option.

But that and other less controversial changes were included in a more sweeping bill Murray sponsored to remake the RTID. It cleared the House, but negotiations with Senate Republicans broke down Sunday.

Murray said Sen. Luke Esser, R-Bellevue, was the principal stumbling block. Esser said he couldn’t accept changes Murray wanted that would have allowed the RTID more flexibility to propose transit as well as highway projects.

Big business and labor pushed hard for the new statewide transportation package. Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce president Steve Leahy said the coalition hasn’t paid much attention this year to RTID legislation or a potential regional package.

“We really have to get back now and focus on RTID,” Leahy said. It’s more complex than the statewide package, he added, and it’s possible the coalition could split.

RTID board members were divided on what to do next. Irons and Gossett said the panel should piece together a package that complies with existing law. “We have the ability to move forward now,” Irons said. “I don’t think any of [the law’s perceived shortcomings] are fatal flaws.”

Snohomish County Councilman Gary Nelson, R-Edmonds, another board member, said the plan should reflect the changes the board wants, and assume the Legislature will pass them next year. “We expect the work we do in the interim to convince them,” Nelson said.

Patterson and Goings said the board should pursue both options. In addition to money for the viaduct and 520, the new statewide package provides $972 million to widen Interstate 405. “The state took a giant bite out of a 20-year backlog [of projects],” Patterson said.

But the package provides relatively little for some projects many consider regional priorities, including widening Highway 167 and extending Highway 509 from SeaTac to Interstate 5.

The latest draft regional package provides much more for each, as well as $1 billion apiece for 520 and the viaduct. But board members said the project list would probably be rewritten to reflect the state’s new contributions.

The draft package would be financed by a 0.6 percent motor-vehicle excise tax and a 0.2 percent sales tax.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231