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Washington state Legislature passes transportation budget
The Washington State Legislature passed a transportation budget in the final minutes of the regular session that includes $57 million in new spending this biennium for roads and highways, public transit, the ferry system, freight mobility and public safety.
The supplemental transportation budget (ESHB 2190) passed with strong bipartisan support, earning an 85-13 vote in the House and a 43-6 vote in the Senate.
The new investments are fueled by modest hikes in a number of transportation-related fees that were passed in separate bills earlier in the day. The investments include:
- $7 million in highway preservation and maintenance.
- $9 million for ferry operations.
- $6.5 million to support $130 million in bonds for a second 144-car ferry.
- $7 million to help cities and counties repair and preserve local infrastructure.
- $9 to help transit agencies, which have been hammered by lost local revenues.
- $9.5 million to support the Washington State Patrol and restore the auto-theft program.
- $2.5 million for the Safe Routes to Schools Program.
- $750,000 for Freight Mobility and Strategic Investment partnerships.
The investment package also includes $32 million over three years to do preliminary work on future projects, such as a fix to I-5 traffic congestion near Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Getting a head start on these projects will avoid costly delays as lawmakers search for new approaches to fund transportation in the face of declining revenues.
The revenue changes will drive $183 million of investments over the full two years of the next biennium. The fee hike most people will see is an increase in the cost of renewing a driver’s license that amounts to $4 a year—but the renewal will last for six years instead of five years.
In January, the Connect Washington Task Force recommended investing $21 billion over the next decade “to preserve the transportation system and make strategic investments in the corridors that hold the key to job creation and economic growth.”