Transportation budget clears legislature

Transportation budget clears legislature
The Washington state legislature approved a $10 billion 2019-21 transportation budget. Photo: freepik.com

The Washington legislature voted overwhelming in favor of a $10 billion 2019-21 transportation budget that funds major projects in central Puget Sound as well as Spokane. ESHB 1160, sponsored by House Transportation Chair Jake Fey (D-27), initially cleared that chamber on Mar. 29 in a 90-5 vote. The Senate then voted unanimously in favor of it on April 4 and then again on April 28 before the House took a final 96-2 vote the same day.

The lopsided vote in support was also reflected through statements made by House lawmakers prior to its passage.

“A good budget has three things in common,” Rep. Jesse Young (R-26) said. “The first is that it’s transparent. The second is it’s bipartisan and the third is it’s fiscally responsible. This budget is all three of them combined together.”

“We were able to look at savings; we were able to work within the revenue streams that we have at our disposal,” Transportation Committee ranking member Rep. Andrew Barkis (R-2) said.

Of the $10 billion budget, $1.3 billion comes from the motor vehicle fund where state gas tax revenue is deposited. Over half ($6.9 billion) of the budget goes toward the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). WSDOT’s budget includes $3 billion for transportation improvement projects, including:

  • $384 million for corridor widening on I-405 between Renton and Bellevue;
  • $138 million for corridor improvements on I-405 between Lynnwood and Tukwila;
  • $165 million for corridor and high occupancy vehicle lane improvements on I-5 and State Route 16;
  • $164 million for US 395 in the North Spokane corridor; and
  • $183 million for State Route 99 and the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Referring to increased traffic in the Spokane metro area, Rep. Matt Shea (R-4) said “this budget is going to help alleviate what is now becoming…s rush hour now for us in Spokane Valley.”

The bill also includes funding for fish passage barriers removal as part of a federal injunction and must be removed by 2030. It also directs WSDOT to work with the Washington State Association of Counties to examine culverts on county-owned land near state-managed fish barriers.

“We have a lot of culverts that will need to be replaced around the state, and so I think that that is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Luanne Van Werven (R-42).

While many projects didn’t make the final budget, Transportation Vice Chair Sharon Wylie (D-49) said at some point the state will have to address them. “We’ve gotten as much as we can out of the available resources, and we spent a lot of time thinking about the future and what that’s going to look like in all parts of our state.”

Fey offered a similar opinion, remarking that the budget is “not all that we had hoped for or we felt was necessary to move forward with our transportation system in the state of Washington … we’ve still got a lot of unmet needs here.”

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