Washington Democrats unveil expansive $16 billion transportation package

Feb 8, 2022, 1:00 PM | Updated: 1:40 pm
Transportation package...
Snowy sunrise over the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge. (WSDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)
(WSDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)

Washington Democrats have unveiled their new “Move Ahead Washington” package, detailing a 16-year transportation funding proposal with a $16 billion price tag.

Dems, GOP set to spar over future of Washington’s transportation budget

The package fills in funding gaps in existing mega-projects, like the expansion of the 167/509 Gateway Project and I-5 between Everett and Marysville. It also provides money to finish the widening of 405 and 167, and the 520 Bridge project.

It funds Washington’s part in a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River in Vancouver, and a new Highway 2 trestle to expand capacity between Snohomish and Everett.

It also invests over a billion dollars in the ferry system, including funding for four new hybrid electric ferries and electrifying two existing boats. It puts more than a billion dollars into active transportation projects for bikes and pedestrians, including the Safe Routes to School program. Another $3 billion would go into transit, with $150 million set aside for high speed rail.

“This package is key for an accessible, sustainable future in Washington’s transportation sector,” said state Rep. Jake Fey, the chair of the House Transportation Committee. “We’ve worked hard over the last two years to listen to communities all across Washington, and they told us that their top priorities included preserving our infrastructure, finishing projects we’ve started, taking action against climate change, expanding multimodal options, and addressing the harm of past transportation policies. I’m proud that this package reflects all those things to invest in every Washington community.”

Inslee, leaders call on state Legislature to fund transportation infrastructure

Those are the bells and whistles. Let’s talk how to pay for it.

Roughly $5.4 billion will come from new taxes and fees on large polluters in the state. These taxes and fees were approved by the 2021 Legislature under the Climate Commitment Act. It’s unclear how much of those new taxes and fees will eventually end up being passed down to consumers, which could translate to much higher gas prices at the pump.

Two billion dollars will come from a one-time transfer from the Operating Budget, $3.4 billion will come from the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, $2 billion will be from a new tax on gas exported out of Washington. It is 6 cents per gallon on gas exports to Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. An estimated $956 million will come from existing bonding authority. Fees for enhanced driver’s licenses will also go up to help pay for this package.

“Washington is a nationwide leader on so many issues, and we can continue to show our progressive values in the transportation sector,” said Senator Marko Liias, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “From letting those 18 and under ride free on transit, to increasing public transit options, and investing in pedestrian and road safety projects to address the rise in traffic deaths, this is a win for our entire state.”

Republican leaders, like minority House Transportation Committee leader Andrew Barkis, say they were never consulted on this package or even asked to contribute.

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Washington Democrats unveil expansive $16 billion transportation package