House transportation plan moves Washington forward
OLYMPIA—House transportation leaders released a 2012 supplemental transportation budget today that invests in immediate needs, makes a head start on funding major future projects and creates or sustains more than 43,000 jobs this biennium.
“These investments target some our most urgent preservation and safety needs, and they set the stage for building the next generation of big projects that Washington needs to fuel job growth and keep people and commerce moving,” said Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island), who chairs the House Transportation Committee. “There is a lot to like here.”
The $9.8 billion budget adds about $700 million to the two-year budget enacted last year, due mainly to full appropriation of bond proceeds for the SR 520 Bridge project.
The budget will be tied to a package of vehicle and driver fees that would generate about $55 million in the current biennium for critical highway maintenance, road preservation, transit, ferry and state patrol needs. Immediate investments would also be made in safe routes to schools and freight mobility partnerships.
The fees, which include increased charges for drivers’ licenses that would be valid for six instead of the current five years, would generate roughly $210 million for transportation investments over the full two years of the next biennium.
“This is not the multi-billion dollar revenue package that the Connecting Washington Task Force said we will ultimately need to preserve our infrastructure and sustain economic growth, but it is a bridge to the future and that is what we need right now,” said Clibborn.
The proposed budget offers a big boost to Washington’s cash-strapped ferry system.
“Passing this budget would mean we can buy a second 144-car ferry and keep the system afloat for at least three years without cutting service or imposing fuel surcharges on commuters who need to get to their jobs,” said Marko Liias (D-Mukilteo), a vice chair of the House Transportation Committee.
Over the next three years, the budget would invest $24 million in preliminary work on future projects so that shovels can hit the ground quickly when a consensus is reached on future sources of transportation revenues.
“Getting a head start on vital future projects such as the next step in Spokane’s North-South freeway and the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Corridor will save us years of delay and get the needed projects and jobs to us that much sooner,” said Rep. Andy Billig (D-Spokane), who also serves as vice-chair of the House Transportation Committee. “I’m also very pleased with the additional investments in Safe Routes to Schools, which helps kids to be safe and healthy.”
The proposal also calls for a $43 million investment in roadway preservation from a newly created Transportation Operations and Maintenance Account. This investment is contingent on passage of a $1.50 cent tax on barrels of oil used for transportation purposes.