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Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Environmentalists balk at roads plan

Seattle Times transportation reporter

Two environmental groups are criticizing this fall's proposed "Roads & Transit" ballot measure, making a tough sell more challenging for elected officials who seek its passage.

The Sierra Club says there are too many general traffic lanes, in spots such as Interstate 5 north of Federal Way, that would worsen global warming instead of solving safety problems.

And the Transportation Choices Coalition believes a proposed six-lane Highway 520 floating bridge is too large through the Washington Park Arboretum and the state doesn't plan to raise the full $4.4 billion needed for construction, said executive director Jessyn Farrell.

At $31 billion, a joint roads-and-transit package is nearing its final shape, five years after the Legislature created the Regional Transportation Investment District to propose road improvements for King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

State law requires new regional road and transit taxes to pass together, or they both fail. The Sierra Club prefers a separate public vote on Sound Transit's proposed light-rail extensions to Lynnwood, Overlake and Tacoma.

Plan supporters point to polls done for Sound Transit that indicate firm public support.

Officials are talking with the environmental groups. Roads-group Chairman Shawn Bunney, a Pierce County councilman, called the task "a fine balancing act."

Many road projects the Sierra Club dislikes are things that commuters in some communities insist upon, he said.

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said support from environmental groups "is one of the key components to a successful election. Their active opposition would make a campaign that much more difficult."

Times staff reporter Andrew Garber contributed to this report.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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