State Senate Issues “Bare-Bones” Transportation Budget

By Jonathan Kaminsky, April 3, 2013, Seattle Times

A bipartisan group of Washington state senators released a transportation budget proposal Wednesday that both sides call “bare-bones.”

The $8.7 billion, two-year plan puts $4.1 billion into maintaining and improving roads, banks $200 million in projected toll revenue toward the Alaskan Way Viaduct project and puts $1.2 billion toward servicing bonding debt.

The plan includes $81.8 million going toward the Columbia River Crossing — less than required to trigger federal matching funds — and doesn’t fund other large projects including the connection of state Route 167 and state Route 509 to Interstate 5 and the North Spokane Corridor project connecting U.S. Route 395 to Interstate 90.

“This is a bare-bones budget,” said Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, who is co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “There is nothing new.”

Also left out of the proposal are options for local governments to raise funds of their own. Seattle-area officials have said that King County Metro faces an annual $75 million shortfall and that without state-level action up to 65 transit routes are at risk of being canceled, with another 86 facing service reductions.

“This budget does not address that,” said King, adding that a final transportation budget and possible revenue package could do so.

The proposal includes enough funding to avoid any cuts to existing ferry service and sets aside money for completion of a second 144-car ferry. It assumes a 2.5 percent ferry fare increase.

“Washington State has one of the safest and largest ferry systems in the country and I’m pleased to see the Legislature’s renewed commitment to it in this budget,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, in a statement.

The budget would also fund a study on merging the ferry tolling system into the state’s Good to Go tolling program. A report on such a merger would be due in November.

With House Democrats having earlier this session proposed a relatively robust transportation spending package, King and Eide agreed that more money could be put into transportation this year, though King said any new taxes should have the support of voters.

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