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Where Are We With Transportation Funding?

With legislative leaders saying that 2012 is definitely not — for economic and political reasons — the year for a big transportation package a handful of bills are keeping major projects on track and laying the groundwork for additional revenues in the future. Some highlights:

Supplemental Transportation Budget

Both the House and the Senate are considering supplemental transportation budgets with few changes from the biennial transportation budget passed last year.

The House bill (SHB 2190) provides an overall increase in the 2011-13 budget of $770 million and the Senate version (SSB 5992) an overall increase of $800 million. These increases however are primarily due to appropriations of bond proceeds for the SR 520 bridge replacement program.

Aside from the SR 520 bond proceeds reduced revenue forecasts have led to a cut in the underlying budget of about $140 million. The Senate bill counts on reduced expenditures in WSDOT workforce reductions of between 5-7% by the end of the biennium and adds additional money dependent on the passage of certain fee bills which the Senate has passed and the House is considering. The House bill appropriates money anticipated to be received from the passage of the $1.50 per/barrel oil fee which is in considerable doubt of passing the Legislature.

Both bills appropriate monetary contributions from the State of Oregon for the Columbia River Crossing project and federal funds for that project; dollars from the City of Seattle for the Viaduct replacement project; and federal funds for Joint Base Lewis-McChord area from I-5/SR 510 to SR 512 – Mobility Improvement project.

Both versions provide about $27 million in new funding for advance design preliminary engineering or right of way acquisition for many state highway projects for example: I-5 Federal Way – triangle vicinity improvements; SR-520 interchanges; SR 509 Des Moines to SeaTac corridor; North-South corridor in Spokane; I-82 Union Gap project; Red Mountain interchange in Benton City; and SR 28 in East Wenatchee.

AGC supports either version of the supplemental budget.

Future Funding Task Force

The House is considering a measure to create a Road User Future Funding Task Force whose primary work is to research and review efforts and studies to evaluate methods of transitioning to a vehicle miles traveled or mileage-base user fee systems of paying for transportation systems.

The original bill (SHB 2704) is dead but creation of the Task Force is included as a budget proviso in the House Supplemental Transportation Budget. AGC is advocating language to ensure that the voting public is kept informed of the work of the Task Force and the implications and impacts of the various funding options being considered on the motoring public and voters.

Other Revenue Measures

The Senate passed and the House is considering AGC-supported legislation (2SSB 5251) that establishes a $100 license fee for all electric vehicles in the State.

AGC also supports legislation granting more local transportation revenue options. Under the bills (SHB 2751 and ESSB 6582) a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) is authorized to impose:

• A vehicle fee of up to $40 with a majority vote of the district’s Governing board; or

• A motor vehicle excise tax of up to 1% of the value of the vehicle with a vote of the people.

The Senate passed its version of the measure which awaits further action in the House.

Columbia River Crossing Viaduct and SR 520

The Senate passed legislation (ESSB 6445) that authorizes the tolling of the existing and replacement Interstate 5 Columbia River bridges. The bill authorizes the Washington State Transportation Commission to enter into agreements with the Oregon State Transportation Commission regarding the mutual or joint setting adjustment and review of toll rates.

The House version (SHB 2676) has been passed by the House Transportation Committee. Like the Senate version it includes an amendment that prevents tolling on alternative route I-205.

AGC of Washington and Oregon-Columbia AGC support the CRC project and support either the House or Senate version of this legislation.

AGC of Washington supports legislation (SSB 6444) passed by the Senate and the House Transportation Committee that authorizes tolling on the tunnel replacing the SR99 Viaduct and authorizes Washington Transportation Commission to set the tolls for future tolling.

AGC also supports legislation (HB 2787 and SB 6599) that permits the replacement of certain elements of the SR 520 Evergreen Point bridge.

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