O’Ban critical of Inslee’s weak response to JBLM/I-5 traffic congestion

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R- Pierce County, who has been working for years to alleviate traffic congestion on Interstate 5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, is disappointed that JBLM traffic problems are largely ignored by Gov. Jay Inslee’s new transportation proposal.

“I would like to have seen the governor prioritize his project list better. Of course every part of our state has transportation needs, but the severe congestion in and around Joint Base Lewis-McChord has a significant impact on the South Sound region as a whole,” said O’Ban, R-Pierce County, who serves the JBLM area as part of the 28th Legislative District.

O’Ban has been calling for full funding of projects to alleviate congestion, at a cost close to $800 million; Inslee’s transportation-spending plan, released Tuesday, includes only $278 million for improvements for chokepoints at I-5 where it passes through JBLM. The Senate Republican’s previous proposal was aligned with the state Department of Transportation’s recommendations that included approximately $80 million more than Inslee’s current plan.

“JBLM is a major employer in our region, and I want it to stay that way – which means we need to resolve the traffic issues that are a problem for the whole community and everyone traveling in the south Puget Sound area. The governor’s lack of investment would mean continued delays for people trying to get to work and go about their daily lives. This proposal moves us in the wrong direction,” O’Ban said. “As we go into the new legislative session next month I will continue working hard to see if we can increase that funding — it’s long overdue and necessary to keep people and goods moving.”

In letters to state Department of Transportation officials and chairs of the transportation committees, O’Ban detailed the need for more investment to fully mitigate congestion in the area.