House Democrats release state transportation budget

OLYMPIA—House Democrats proposed a second supplemental transportation budget for the 2021-23 biennium and the new transportation budget for the 2023-25 fiscal biennium, providing a spending authority of $10.3B and $13.6B, respectively. The budgets reflect several new legislative and governor priorities, as well as the need to address the fiscal realities relating to the continuation of previous legislative budgets.

These budget funds will be used to implement last year’s historic and transformative, Move Ahead Washington package (almost $17 billion) over a 16-year period, as well as projects from the 2015 Connecting Washington package ($16 billion investment), also over a 16-year period.

“Many projects were delayed several years,” said House Transportation Chair Rep. Jake Fey (D-Tacoma).  “It makes sense to not dismantle these project teams but to keep the projects on schedule and we have the financial resources to do so.

“Our ferry system also has a lot of challenges in regard to worker recruitment, training and retention, not to mention the construction of new vessels,” Fey added.

“This year, the House Democrats and House Republicans worked side-by-side on this budget. I believe there will be bipartisan support,” said Fey.

This budget funds:

  • Eliminating delays in major highway projects
  • Reducing carbon emissions as part of the Climate Commitment Act (CCA)
  • Improving traffic safety
  • Investing in Washington State Ferries

Highlighted Investments


Highway Improvements & Preservation: $5.67B

This budget restores key projects and keeps them on schedule. The Governor’s budget pushed out many projects including major Connecting Washington (CW) projects. This budget prioritizes CW projects and keeps many major projects on schedule, which is important to maintain momentum. This budget is also realistic about what WSDOT can accomplish in time allotted, for example:

  • Restored North/South Freeway near Spokane (connecting I-90 at the south, just west of the Thor/Freya interchange and US 2 and US 395)
  • The Puget Sound Gateway Program (SR 167 and SR 509 completion)
  • The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program connecting Washington and Oregon
  • Restored funding for SR 18 widening to improve highway safety
  • Emergent highway improvements and preservation
  • Culverts: Continued state commitment to address fish passage blockages associated with WSDOT roads


Investing in our ferry system: $1.26B

Washington State Ferries (WSF) needs better employment initiatives and new vessels. Money for these two items will come from the operating budget ($527M) and the capital budget ($728M) for new vessels.

Workforce initiatives at WSF: (SB 5550)

  • Support pre-apprenticeship support services program (PASS) to ensure WSF staff are representative of the communities they serve. This program will provide technical education, sea time, employment readiness skills, as well as supportive services to aid underserved and underrepresented individuals to gain meaningful, family-wage jobs with WSF.
  • Fund the able-bodied sailor (AB) to Mate Pathway This will improve the process for unlicensed deckhands to receive their mate’s license.
  • Scholarships for mate candidates and fund necessary education for successful licensing.
  • Fund new employee training, pay for TWIC cards, and housing for workforce training.
  • Creates a partnership between WSF and Seattle Maritime Academy to develop a joint training and recruitment plan that centers WSF’s training and development needs and focuses on concrete action to recruit diverse students for the ferry workforce and maritime training.
  • Making a significant investment in Eagle Harbor (Bainbridge Island) to keep ferries on the water. 

New Vessels: (HB 1846 + SB 5760)

  • Funds three hybrid-electric conversions
  • Funding to get started on construction of five new hybrid-electric vessels. Work will begin this biennium through next five biennia.

Traffic Safety

This budget invests in multiple aspects of traffic safety, taking into consideration the roles traffic management, law enforcement, driver education, and the build environment play in keeping our streets and roadways safe. Washington is facing its highest level of traffic fatalities since 1990, with 745 people losing their lives in 2022 alone.

Budget investments will include:

  • Automated speed cameras in work zones (SB 5272): $3.7M
  • Driver reexamination after causing substantial bodily harm (HB 1319)
  • Washington State Patrol recruitment incentives: $2.8 M (HB 1638)
  • UW/WSDOT sidewalk inventory in overburdened communities: $2M
  • Boosting bicycle/pedestrian projects and programs through CCA: $1.61M
  • Equipment repair grant program: $750K 

Climate Commitment Act: $921M

The state’s carbon-pricing program is the centerpiece of the Washington’s Climate Commitment Act that passed in 2021. This piece of legislation sets a statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions that gradually lessen over time, with a goal of decarbonization by 2050.

Washington had its first CCA auction in late February 2023 allowing us to invest in decarbonization strategies across the transportation sector, including:

Move Ahead Washington programmed: $723M

  • Active transportation: $161M
  • Transit programs & projects: $382M
  • Alt-Fuel & Electrification: $70M
  • Ferries: $89M

Additional transfer to Carbon Emissions Reduction Account: $198M

  • Commercial vehicle infrastructure & incentive program: $150M
  • ZEV school buses, shore power and drayage pilots, public transit electrification, hydrogen refueling, and other EV infrastructure project: $48M

For more information:  

House Democratic Caucus Transportation Budget proposal news conference available on TVW here.  Budget details from the House Office of Program Research available at fiscal.wa.govExecutive Session on the House transportation budget proposal in the Transportation Committee is scheduled for 4 PM on Wednesday, March 29 on TVW