Yesterday the Senate Transportation Committee announced its 2010 Transportation Supplemental Budget. The steady-as-she-goes $8.6 billion budget preserves the capital construction project schedule as adopted during the 2009 legislative session. This includes the continued progression on mega‐projects such as the Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel replacement and the SR 520 bridge replacement.
The Committee noted “The proposed budget reflects the current competitive bid environment and maintains the planned unprecedented level of transportation project spending adopted last year for the 2009‐11 biennium which will continue to stimulate the economy and create jobs.” Plus the budget assumes the issuance of Build America Bonds authorized by the federal government through the federal stimulus plan which results in favorable interest rates and a corresponding reduction in debt service payments.
Countering the positive bid environment however is the fact that gas tax revenues continue to decline with deficits projected in the transportation budget within a few years. “The declining revenue environment resulting from a continuing economic slump will put core transportation activities such as preservation and maintenance of existing assets as well as public safety at risk in the not too distant future” noted the Committee.
While the supplemental budget is good news for 2010 the declining gas tax revenue curve emphasizes the need for development of a longer term financing approach. AGC is working on this and has helped form and lead a broad-based coalition to find a way to finance these needed investments.
The proposed supplemental budget also incorporates the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants recently awarded to Washington State for the “Mercer Mess” and North Spokane Corridor Project.
Gov. Gregoire and U.S. Senator Patty Murray Chair of the U.S. Senate’s Transportation Appropriations Committee and creator of the TIGER Grants announced that the Mercer Corridor Project in Seattle will receive $30 million under the program
“This funding is a critical piece of the puzzle for a project that is central to the economy of our state and the Puget Sound region” said Sen. Murray. “Rebuilding the Mercer Corridor is going to create direct construction jobs improve port and highway access and reduce commute times in an area that contains some of our most vital employers. I created the TIGER grant program to fund projects just like this one. Projects that that not only create jobs in the construction phase but that also address regional economic needs. This project lies in the heart of one of the most important economic engines in our state.”
In addition the North Spokane Corridor project will receive $35 million. “This is a huge win for a project that has long been the centerpiece of efforts to boost Spokane’s economy and create local jobs” said Sen. Murray.