Op-ed to the Seattle Times on Move Ahead Washington

Read the op-ed below or at this link.

Washington is on the horizon of a new day in transportation — one that pledges a brighter future for our environment and communities. We’re proud to unveil Move Ahead Washington, the Democratic transportation package delivering historic investments to preserve our roads, reduce carbon emissions and provide safe, equitable options to get around.

Past investments haven’t met our modern needs. Without adequate support for aging infrastructure, local maintenance projects have been stalled. Working people sit in traffic because there aren’t other options to reach their destinations. Tomorrow’s generations are counting on us to take meaningful action against climate change, while today’s low-income, Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), and rural communities confront economic and environmental harm from previous transportation decisions.

We deserve better, and that’s why we introduced Move Ahead Washington.

Our package includes an unprecedented $3 billion to preserve existing infrastructure. Preservation has been underfunded for too long, leaving bridges, roads, sidewalks and ferries to deteriorate while our population booms. This package recognizes the importance of fixing what we have before adding capacity to a strained system. This is why we’ve prioritized $1 billion to replace Washington’s portion of the Interstate 5 Columbia River Bridge. By focusing on existing highway and freeway projects, these dollars create family-wage construction jobs and fulfill our obligation to replace fish-passage barriers.

The approach also emphasizes bold reduction of carbon emissions. Washington’s transportation sector contributed nearly 45% of statewide greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. We’re putting $5.4 billion from the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) into electrification and expanding multimodal options — investing in everything from bicycle and pedestrian grants to electric vehicle charging stations.

Transportation budgets have traditionally focused on the movement of cars. But cars are only one element of the integrated transportation system supporting our economy. We’re breaking this tradition to repair our ferry system ($1.3 billion toward building four new hybrid electric ferries), build high-speed rail ($150 million toward the proposed Vancouver-to-Portland corridor) and expand transit to meet our needs ($600 million toward special needs transit grants).

Multimodal expansion is a key value in our package that improves lives today without sacrificing future quality of life. A fair, accessible system provides diverse choices so people can use what works for them — whether walking, rolling, driving or riding — while reducing our carbon footprint.

Similarly, Move Ahead Washington reflects a new commitment to mitigating the negative environmental, health and economic impacts of transportation projects.

Communities of color have borne the brunt of this harm, experiencing traffic, pollution, and displacement. BIPOC in less urban areas face further barriers to work and school due to insufficient transit and the costs of vehicle ownership. These same communities are historically excluded from the family-wage jobs associated with transportation construction.

Our plan re-prioritizes disinvested neighborhoods and renews our moral obligation to address harm we’ve caused. Connecting Communities, one program in the package, allocates $50 million for walking and biking projects in communities that haven’t received enough resources for this infrastructure. To expand reliable service for seniors, children and tribal members, we’ve included special needs and tribal transit grants, in addition to allowing all Washingtonians 18 and under to ride free. Our package also directs more than one-third of CCA dollars into programs serving low-income or BIPOC communities.

This is a people- and future-oriented proposal that doesn’t punt costs to working families. Especially after the economic hardships of the pandemic, it is imperative that we fund these proposals without an immediate gas tax. Instead, a one-time transfer from the state’s general fund, federal dollars and investments from the CCA can meet our current needs.

Move Ahead Washington is more than a budget. It’s a commitment to our values, to our vision for the future and to the people of Washington. It’s a proposal that rises not just to meet today’s challenges, but to guide us into a new tomorrow for all of Washington.