Proposal adapts to growing population and changing technology
OLYMPIA—The House of Representatives released its Transportation Budget proposal for 2019-20, a nearly $10 billion budget that invests in new ferries, a new bridge connecting Washington and Oregon and major funding to remove fish-barriers on state roads.
“Transportation is always a bipartisan budget and this year is no exception,” said Rep. Jake Fey (D-Tacoma), chair of the House Transportation Committee. “I’m proud to say we worked with the ranking member and lawmakers from both parties in every corner of the state to craft this proposal, which helps connect each part of the state so we can get people where they need to go and goods to markets around the world.”
The proposed budget (House Bill 1160) will have a hearing at 3:30 p.m. today in House Hearing Room B. You can find details about the budget here: http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/budget/detail/2019/ht1921p.asp
“This is about adapting to changing times and technology,” Fey said. “Our state’s population has grown by one million in the past few years because of our booming economy—but that growth has put a great strain on our highways, ferries and transportation system. We’re proposing smart, cost-effective ways to deal with those changes.”
A major piece of the House proposal involves ferries, with $99 million in funding ($187 million over four years) to build the first of two new hybrid-electric 144-car ferries and $77 million to convert two existing ferries into hybrids, which would save taxpayers an estimated 25 percent on fuel costs.
“On ferries,” Fey said, “we’re making up for lost time.”
The greener, cleaner technology for ferries works hand-in-hand with other legislation passed by the House this session on the electrification of mass transit and an omnibus green transportation proposal.
With the tunnel replacing the Alaska Way Viaduct complete, the biggest new project on the radar is a new bridge over the Columbia River connecting Washington and Oregon. The existing bridge is obsolete and would not survive a major earthquake. The replacement project is nicknamed the Columbia River Crossing and the House proposal includes funding to restart work and talks with Oregon lawmakers.
Another priority in the budget is $25 million in safety improvements to State Route 18 at Tiger Mountain.
The House budget also makes major new investments to remove fish-blocking culverts, with $124 million in additional funding—for a grand total of $214 million overall—to remove fish barriers on state-owned highways. There’s also $25 million to help local governments remove fish barriers.
“The funding to remove fish barriers is important to help our struggling populations of salmon and orcas,” Fey said. “It’s also about keeping our word when it comes to tribal fishing rights and treaties.”
After the public hearing today, the budget proposal is expected to get a vote in the Transportation Committee later this week and a vote on the floor of the House as early as Friday.
Note: the funding for culverts has been updated and corrected since the first posting of this document.