As part of the transportation package approved by the legislature this last session, the first of a series of gas tax raises will hit Saturday.

Prices across the state will rise another 7 cents per gallon, taking Washington state to the fourth-highest gas tax in the U.S.  The money will go towards a series of transportation improvements, but at least the Mid-Columbia will benefit from several of them.

Our state gas tax will climb from 37.5 to 44.5 cents.  The tax is slated to rise another 4.9 cents next year, moving us up to second-highest, provided one of the other states doesn't increase it's tax.

Some of that money will be used for the following Mid-Columbia projects:

  • $38 million for the Duportail Street Bridge over the Yakima River, which the City of Richland has wanted for years.
  • $28.4 million to build an interchange connecting I-82 directly with Red Mountain.
  • $168 million to continue to widen Highway 12 from Pasco to Walla Walla from two lanes to four.  It's one of the most heavily traveled - and dangerous - highways in the state.
  • $21 million for a four-lane bridge at the intersection of Ridgeline and Highway 395.

So, while nobody likes higher gas prices, at least this time we're seeing useful projects for our region. And, at least WE don't have the Bertha Tunnel to nowhere, like they do in Seattle!