$15-B transportation package passes Senate Committee

Forward Washington — a comprehensive ten-year transportation and environmental plan to invest in infrastructure and green technology projects throughout the state — was passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee March 6.

This plan, introduced by Senate Transportation Committee Chair Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens) would address many of the state’s transportation and environmental needs but also serve as a jobs package, creating an estimated 65,000 family-wage jobs over the life of the plan. It is unclear whether the package has enough backing to pass the Legislature this year. Sen. Hobbs calls it “a work in progress.”

AGC Chief Lobbyist Jerry VanderWood testified in support of the package but expressed flexibility on the mix of funding sources.

“The infrastructure and environmental challenges we face should be treated as an opportunity, not a barrier,” said Hobbs. “These investments will create tens of thousands of jobs, modernize Washington’s transportation systems, and address some truly urgent environmental needs.”

A complete list of proposed projects can be found here. This list is likely to evolve during the legislative process.

Some of the plan’s additional highlights include:
• Funding for a badly needed replacement for the I-5 Vancouver bridge.
• Funding to rebuild the US 2 trestle in Snohomish County.
• Transportation investments that benefit people with special needs, rural mobility, bike and pedestrian paths, commute trip reduction, and public transit.
• Numerous investments for repairs to roads, highways and bridges throughout the state.

Environmental investments include:
• Stormwater cleanup -- the #1 source of pollution in Puget Sound.
• Electrification of the state’s ferry vessels along with terminal and grid upgrades, reducing carbon and noise pollution.
• Fish-culvert replacement.

Funding for this plan will come from a variety of sources, including a gas-tax increase, transportation impact fees, truck and motorhome weight fees, and modest increases in additional transportation-related costs and fees.

The bulk of the environmental investments in this plan will be paid for by a new carbon fee. Hobbs, who said he didn’t support either of the two previous carbon measures on the ballot, said there are numerous key differences between his carbon fee plan and the past failed initiatives.

“This fee is locked in at $15 per metric ton, most of which is dedicated toward environmental improvements, including recommendations made by the governor’s Southern Resident Killer-Whale Task Force,” he said.

“Transportation is responsible for most of our state’s greenhouse-gas emissions. It makes sense to link a revenue source that addresses that problem to the cause of that problem.”

A complete list of funding sources and spending categories can be found here.