State Senate issues ‘bare-bones’ transportation budget
A bipartisan group in the state Senate releases a “bare-bones” budget that doesn’t fund some major projects and doesn’t address Metro Transit’s money troubles.
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — A bipartisan group of Washington state senators released a transportation-budget proposal Wednesday that both sides call “bare-bones.”
The $8.7 billion, two-year plan puts $4.1 billion into road improvements and maintenance, banks $200 million in projected toll revenue toward the Alaskan Way Viaduct project and puts $1.2 billion toward servicing bonding debt.
The plan includes $81.8 million for the Columbia River Crossing — less than required to trigger federal matching funds — and doesn’t fund other large projects including the connection of Highways 167 and 509 to Interstate 5 and the North Spokane Corridor project connecting Highway 395 to Interstate 90.
“This is a bare-bones budget,” said Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, co-chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “There is nothing new.”
Also left out are options for local governments to raise funds of their own. Seattle-area officials have said King County Metro faces an annual $75 million shortfall, and that without state-level action up to 65 transit routes could be canceled, with 86 more facing service reductions.
“This budget does not address that,” said Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, adding that a final transportation budget and possible revenue package could do so.
Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien was among a group of officials from cities including Vancouver and Bainbridge Island visiting Olympia to ask lawmakers to allow for local revenue-raising options. O’Brien said he was encouraged after talking with King.
“I walked out of that meeting feeling there is room for us to come to some solution that can accommodate his caucus and still meet the needs of businesses and transit riders in Seattle,” O’Brien said.
The proposal includes enough funding to avoid any cuts to existing ferry service and sets aside money for completion of a second 144-car ferry. It assumes a 2.5 percent ferry-fare increase.
“Washington state has one of the safest and largest ferry systems in the country, and I’m pleased to see the Legislature’s renewed commitment to it in this budget,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, in a statement.
The budget would also fund a study on merging the ferry-tolling system into the state’s Good to Go tolling program. A report on such a merger would be due in November.
With House Democrats having earlier proposed a relatively robust transportation package, King and Eide agreed that more money could be put into transportation this year, though King said any new taxes should have the support of voters.