In a previous legislative update, I talked about many of the challenges that the Legislature faces when it comes to having and maintaining a robust transportation system that meets the needs of our state. From on-time ferries to road repairs, pedestrian safety improvements to funding for transit, transportation is a big deal in our state and one of my top priorities in Olympia.
This week, we voted to pass a transportation funding package out of the House Transportation committee that included funding for many programs and projects that are important to the 34th District including a new 144-car ferry; local funding options for King County Metro, and funding for many other projects that impact our district.
Although ultimately the House and Senate need to come to an agreement on the final transportation budget, this is a good first step for our local communities and I have worked hard to make sure that priorities for the 34th district and transportation alternatives are not left out.
It has become clear in the last few years that we need to replace our aging ferries. Although our state has invested in quality ferries that last a long time, many of them have been in service for half a century. Vigor Shipyards in West Seattle is currently at work building the two new 144-car, Olympic Class ferries that the legislature approved last biennium. The latest budget proposal funds a third Olympic Class ferry. In addition to keeping our ferry system running safely and efficiently, construction of ferries in Washington creates skilled, living-wage jobs and bolsters our economy.
Over the course of the legislative session, I have heard from many of you about the importance of transit in our communities. The package that passed out of committee includes authorization to ask King County voters to approve a motor vehicle excise tax of up to 1.5% of the price of a vehicle. Additionally, authorization is given to increase the Transportation Benefit District (TBD) fee from $20 to $40. The money collected goes to providing the essential transit services our communities rely on.
Other important investments in transit, pedestrian and bicycle projects that are funded in the proposed budget include street crossing improvements at 47th & Admiral in West Seattle; making S/SW 136th St. & 8th Ave S. in Burien safer; improving the West Seattle Bridge trail; and improving service on Metro route 120.
One of my top priorities in Olympia is making getting to work, school, and play easier and safer, no matter whether you choose to walk, bike, ride transit, or drive. Dangerous intersections, like the one at 47th & Admiral, deter people from walking to the local businesses and put people’s lives at risk.
Stretches of road without sidewalks, like 8th Ave S between Cedarhurst Elementary and S 136th St, make it difficult and risky for kids to walk to school. I believe that a transportation budget should include support for the many ways that we travel around.
Investments in our transportation infrastructure are important to our quality of life and economic prosperity, but they are not free. In order to pay for projects around the state, the transportation package includes an increase in the gas tax which is phased in through incremental steps at a rate of 5, 3, and 2 cents in one-year increments.
This frontloading allows for maximum bonding leverage to take advantage of favorable market conditions, meaning more money to immediately help ease congestion and more projects per dollar.
This package will help us start to address our long term transportation and transit funding needs and will help keep our economy moving.
Credit for Route 120 photo: Oran Viriyincy via Flickr