The State Legislature is currently developing a supplemental transportation budget, and current drafts contain some good news.
The state operates on a two-year budget cycle, so during even numbered years like 2016, the Legislature passes supplemental budgets, or tweaks to the full budget passed in the previous year. The final 2016 supplemental transportation budget has not passed yet, but Senate and House versions have been introduced.
Both the House (HB 2524) and Senate (SB 6307) versions include about $500 million in additional funding to the two-year, $8.6-billion budget passed last year. Out of the new money, the Senate budget would add $95 million to highway maintenance and preservation; the House version adds about $110 million to those accounts. Additional funds for preservation and maintenance is a top priority of AGC.
Fish-barrier removal would get an additional $113 million in the House proposal; $130 million in the Senate bill. Other big gainers in the proposals are the ferry system with additional funds to pay down the cost of a new ferry, and the rail program. The House bill also addresses the controversial car pool lanes on I-405. The supplemental budget contains down payments on $18 million in improvements to the I-405 corridor, including a northbound auxiliary lane and a new general-purpose lane between SR 527 and I-5. The Washington State Transportation Commission is directed to conduct emergency rulemaking to provide toll relief on evenings, weekends and holidays.
“The improvements to I-405 made in this budget will help bring relief to commuters, especially in the areas like the 1st District where congestion has worsened since the toll lanes launched,” said Rep. Luis Moscoso (D-Bothell), a vice chair of the House Transportation Committee. “I am committed to solutions that will bring swift relief to those struggling in traffic.”
The new $500 million in the transportation budget comes from better-than-expected revenues from the gas tax and other sources (up 7.4%), as well as an influx of federal funding from the recently enacted federal highway bill known as the FAST Act (about $60 million in the current biennium).
“The process of creating a supplemental budget gives us an opportunity to check on existing programs and make sure they are on track. We were able to further complement the largest transportation revenue package in state history passed by the Legislature last year,” said Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, Senate Transportation Committee chair.
For more information, contact AGC Chief Lobbyist Jerry VanderWood, 360.352.5000.