Carbon cap, federal dollars allow state Dems to move on progressive transportation policy

Feb 14, 2022, 5:09 AM | Updated: 9:10 am


The Burke-Gilman Trail underneath I-5 (Flickr)


Last week, House and Senate Democrats unveiled their transportation package for the 2022 session, called “Move Ahead Washington.” The $16 billion spending package emphasizes funding for mass transit, car alternative transportation infrastructure, and high speed rail, and broadly aligns with carbon deduction policy goals, borrowing much of its funding from the state’s Climate Commitment Act.

Washington Democrats unveil expansive $16 billion transportation package

Democrats in Olympia have tried for years to pass transportation budget packages that align with progressive policy. In last year’s session, former Senate Transportation Chair Steve Hobbs failed to broker a transportation spending deal largely funded through bond issuances backed by gas taxes. The creation of state debt requires a congressional supermajority.

This time around, Democrats are sourcing much of the transportation funds ($5.4 billion) through the aforementioned climate act — the carbon pricing initiative signed into law last year — as well as through federal transportation spending dollars (The Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in November).

“This has been crazy,” Rep. Andrew Barkis (R-2nd District) told KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show. “There’s been talk of a transportation package for two years. And in that entire time, there has never been a formal meeting with the Four Corners in the Senate and the House to actually talk and negotiate about some kind of a plan. The Democrats just went out on their own this time and started doing that.”

Barkis is the House Transportation Committee leader.

Move Ahead Washington invests $3 billion in public transportation systems, $1.3 billion in four new hybrid electric ferries, $1.2 billion on active transportation programs and initiatives to support cycling and pedestrian safety, and $2.6 billion to facilitate fish passage with culvert replacements. Roughly $4 billion is spent on new and existing highway projects, including the notable I-5 Columbia River Bridge projects and U.S. Route 2 Trestle. A flat $3 billion is spent on highway preservation and maintenance.

“It just tells me that they have an agenda, and they are going to push for their priorities,” Rep. Barkis continued. “This is what they want. When you look at the governor’s climate plans, it aligns with the majority’s plans for what they envision transportation to be.”

“We’ve got [funding] to build more bike and pedestrian paths and active transportation, all these things are going to reduce carbon,” Barkis added. “But in the meanwhile, you’re not reducing congestion, you’re not adding capacity, you’re not taking care of the maintenance backlog. You know, more people are sitting in their cars for longer or polluting more when they’re sitting there.”

As Senate Bills 5974 and 5975, and House Bills 2118 and 2119 — which make up Move Ahead Washington — push forward in the coming weeks, Barkis noted Republicans’ primary concerns with the legislation pieces.

“Our big concern is, if we are going to move away from the gas tax, and if this is going to supplant that as a new way to fund our transportation system, then it needs to be either or, not in addition to,” he said.

“The other thing is, it must be protected funds under the 18th Amendment to make sure that those dollars go towards our roads and infrastructure,” he noted. “… If you look at this bill, as it was presented, very clearly, they do not want it to go to the 18th Amendment, they want to have all that money come in so they can spend it on their utopian vision: multimodal transit, everybody on a bus.”

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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Carbon cap, federal dollars allow state Dems to move on progressive transportation policy