House passes transportation budget

House passes transportation budget
The state House overwhelming voted in support of its proposed 2019-21 transportation budget. Photo: freepik.com

The state House overwhelming approve its 2019-21 transportation budget on Mar. 29 that spends $10 billion on fish culvert repairs, the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement and other transportation projects throughout the state. Prior to its passage on the House floor in a 90-5 vote, lawmakers touted the bipartisan approach taken while crafting it, along with the absence of any new revenue streams to finance it.

“We got the work of the people done without raising taxes, period,” Rep. Jesse Young (R-26) said.

ESHB 1160, sponsored by House Transportation Chair Jake Fey (D-27), spends $600 million more than the 2017-19 transportation budget, with the 2018 supplemental included. Of the $10 billion, $3.1 billion would go toward the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Highway Improvements program.

Appropriations for the 2019-21 biennium include:

  • $51 million toward widening parts of the State Route 18 corridor used heavily by truckers en route from Snoqualmie Pass to the ports;
  • $8.75 million toward the Interstate 5 Bridge between Vancouver and Portland;
  • $112 million toward state Route 520 corridor improvements between Seattle and Redmond;
  • $385.63 million toward Interstate 405 corridor improvements between Lynnwood and Tukwila; and
  • $384.4 million toward I-405 corridor widening between Bellevue and Renton.

Other funding provisions include replacing some of the state’s ferry system fleet and $214 million for replacing fish culverts that impede salmon passage to habitat. A court injunction requires the state to replace hundreds of the culverts located on Washington State Department of Transportation land by 2030. The budget also continues the road usage charge (RUC) steering committee and further study of a regional ultra high-speed rail line.

Prior to the House floor vote, Fey said that the state’s beautiful geographical landscapes are “wonderful features of Washington, but they’re a challenge for the transportation system. That’s why we have a ferry system. Building roads across mountains doesn’t come cheaply, because we want them to be as safe as possible; we also want them to be able to fuel our economic development in the state.”

He added that “it was a little bit tougher for state agencies, because we really got into the specifics of the request, and they didn’t get all that they asked for.”

Despite opposition on some aspects of the budget, Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-20) said “when I look at the overall budget, I think the good outweighs the bad and the concerns that I have in it.”

The Senate transportation budget proposal cleared the Transportation Committee on Mar. 28 and has been referred to the Rules Committee for a second reading. ESHB 1160 has been referred to the Senate, but not yet assigned to a committee.

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