WA House transportation budget proposes $14.3 billion for ferries, traffic safety, highway projects, fish passages and more

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OLYMPIA— Today, the House unveiled a supplemental transportation budget of $14.3 billion, an increase of $821 million for the enacted biennial budget. Much of the increase is for spending at the Department of Transportation and made possible by three things: 

  • Re-appropriated federal funding. 
  • Increased cap-and-invest auction revenues. 
  • Accelerated Move Ahead Washington spending from available balances. 

The state of Washington’s ferries and highways have been in the news quite a bit since the 2023 legislative session concluded nearly 10 months ago. Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, Chair of the House Transportation Committee, has said that he and his fellow members of the House Transportation Committee had their work cut out for them as they work to find solutions to budget challenges. These include increasing construction costs for ferries, roads, and other vital transportation projects. 

“Unfortunately, we’ve been experiencing unexpected cost increases on many transportation projects—including new vessels for our state’s ferry system, new highway projects and maintenance of our roadways, and federally-mandate corrections to barriers that impede fish passage,” said Fey. “We also still need to find an appropriate vendor to build our new ferries, and we’re contending with worker shortages for necessary road construction and maintenance. 

“This proposal is a bipartisan budget, and while my fellow lawmakers and I did have to look at sizing a number of projects down and waiting until there is more money available, we do honor our commitments to Connecting Washington and Move Ahead Washington,” said Fey. “This includes honoring our promise to Oregon with the I-5 bridge replacement. Federal funding is incumbent upon Washington and Oregon’s pledge to the project.” 

“What we aim to do with this proposal is avoid getting into further difficulty and increase our deficit,” continued Fey. “We are maintaining the dollars allocated to transportation projects, yet what this unfortunately means is that some projects will need to be rebid.” 

In the 2024 supplemental transportation budget, the project that will be most impacted is the funding of the 520/Portage Bay project.  “Due to escalated project costs, we are prioritizing construction of the North Bridge, which is vital to creating a seismically resilient crossing. Construction of the south bridge and the Roanoke Lid will be pushed to future years,” said Fey. The total estimated project cost was $1 billion. The bid came in at $1.7 billion. 

“Many of the projects in both packages—Connecting Washington and Move Ahead Washington—have enough resources, received good bids, and will be moving forward,” said Fey.  

“Last year we didn’t allocate enough funds for preservation and maintenance. This year we worked hard to remedy so that we maintain our existing infrastructure. This budget isn’t just about new projects, it’s about maintaining the condition of the state’s roadways.” 

In addition to the higher-than-anticipated cost estimate to complete work identified through 2030 for road construction and maintenance due to inflation and worker shortages, is an estimated $4 billion more to correct fish passages. Additionally, there are ferry construction costs to address, as well as alarming rates of traffic-related injuries and deaths. Just last week, statistics were released from Washington’s Traffic Safety Commission that show 800 people lost their lives on Washington’s roads in 2023—the deadliest on record since 1990.  

“The House has a couple traffic safety bills that are now under consideration in the Senate to help tackle this issue,” said Fey. They include House Bill 2356 and House Bill 2384. Both bills would expand the use of speed cameras in highway construction zones and in cities, respectively.  

“There is also a Washington State Patrol longevity bonus bill in the works (House Bill 2357), which builds upon work done last year to recruit more people into working for the WSP and provide incentives to encourage transfers from state and local agencies. House Bill 2357, however, wants to retain those already with the agency—especially those close to retirement—with monetary incentives,” added Fey. “We need to stop all these road fatalities now.” 

Below are some highlights of the 2024 supplemental transportation budget where funding is allocated: 

Highway Improvements
  • Fish passage barrier corrections: $150 million 
  • Columbia River Interstate Bridge Replacement: $600 million through federal grant funding. 
Highway Maintenance and Preservation
  • Advance $200 million from Move Ahead Washington by seven years, including $40 million in the 2023-25 biennium. 
  • Add $23.5 million for costs increases to materials required for highway maintenance. 
  • $49 million from cap-and-invest auctions. 
  • $58 million for construction of five hybrid-electric ferries. 
  • $24 million for ferry preservation/maintenance. 
  • $22 million to support the Washington State Ferries workforce development and service delivery goals. 
Climate Commitment Act
  • $340 million of additional revenue made possible by revenues from the carbon emission allowance auctions. Some of this additional funding will support Safe Routes to School and bicycle/pedestrian projects, electric school busses and the 2026 World Cup planning. 
  • At least 35 percent of CCA transportation funding must go to overburdened communities and vulnerable populations, and 10 percent must go to tribal communities. 
Traffic Safety
  • $66 million for traffic management, law enforcement, and the built environment to keep our streets and roadways safe.