Two-year transportation budget proposal saved by federal stimulus funding

OLYMPIA—“Last year, transportation was in a terrible fiscal position due to revenue losses from the COVID pandemic, the pending I-976 case, and the need to fund fish passages,” said House Transportation Chair Jake Fey (D-Tacoma). “We are in a much better position today after the state Supreme Court rejected I-976 and the federal stimulus provided $800 million in transportation funding.”

While the short-term financial picture for transportation is better, Fey said the long-term challenges remain, with declining gas tax revenues and higher costs due to substantial population growth in Washington State.

The new two-year budget (House Bill 1135) is designed to adapt to those changing conditions. It would invest in green transportation initiatives, major construction projects, and policy reforms to boost equity and opportunity.

“Our state’s transportation system needs to be cleaner, greener, and more inclusive,” Fey said. “Ten years from now, how we get around, and who’s wearing the hard hats on state projects, should look quite different due to the changes in this transportation budget.”

The 2021-23 fiscal biennium budget would spend $9.447 billion in the first fiscal year and $10.933 billion in the second year.

Green transportation and electrification

  • $152.5 million to continue work on the state’s first hybrid-electric ferry, an Olympus-class vessel with construction beginning the spring of 2022 and funding for the material needed for the second such vessel.
  • $12 million for electric vehicle charging grants and alternative fuel refueling infrastructure.
  • $15 million for green transportation capital grants to help transit agencies fund the projects needed to reduce carbon emissions and switch to electric vehicles or other zero-emission options.

Major construction projects and programs

The better financial picture means planned construction projects will continue to get funding and move forward, Fey said.

  • $726 million to fully fund fish passage barrier removals as proposed by the Department of Transportation and in compliance with the federal injunction. The proposal also funds efforts to complete inventories of culverts for cities and counties.
  • $493 million for State Route 520 corridor improvements on the west end.
  • $453 million for corridor widening and improvements on I-405 from Renton to Bellevue.
  • $485 million for engineering, right-of-way acquisition, and early construction on the Puget Sound Gateway at State Route 167 and State Route 509.
  • $101 million to expand the I-5 corridor through Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
  • $194 million for continued work on US 395 in the North Spokane Corridor.
  • $116 million to widen I-90 Snoqualmie Pass to Easton.
  • $93 million for improvements to US 12 in the Walla Walla corridor.
  • $505 million in capital funding for the state’s ferry system, including $100.2 million for Colman Dock preservation, $110.4 million in preservation work for the ferry fleet, and $68.5 million to preserve terminal buildings around the Puget Sound.
  • $38.3 million for Safe Routes to Schools, double the previous funding.

Equity and opportunity

  • $6 million to increase diversity in the transportation construction workforce through the Pre-Apprenticeship Support Services (PASS) program and assistance to minority- and women-owned contractors.
  • $2 million to the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises to increase the number of certified women- and minority-owned contractor outside the Puget Sound area.
  • $950,000 to support the ability of foster and homeless youth to obtain their driver’s license and car insurance, helping them overcome barriers to higher education and job opportunities.

The House Transportation Committee will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23.

There is a non-partisan narrative summary of the proposed budget. You can also read the full set of transportation budget documents online.