OLYMPIA - Senate transportation leaders today proposed a bipartisan supplemental transportation budget for the 2011-13 biennium that adds nearly $800 million to the $9 billion two-year budget period.
"This budget is basically a bridge to the next biennium in that it allows us to continue to maintain our roads and avoid severe cuts in services," said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. "The modest fee increases we’ve proposed won’t fix all of our revenue problems, but they will generate enough to continue work on our major transportation projects uninterrupted."
Haugen said the transportation leaders’ plan is to maintain current levels of service through the remainder of this biennium and then use the new biennium to develop a plan that addresses the structural deficiencies behind the state’s declining transportation revenues.
“We’ve been looking at ways to reform our state’s aging transportation system and many of those ideas have been incorporated into this budget proposal,” said Yakima Senator Curtis King, ranking Republican on the Senate Transportation Committee. “Once again, we’ve come together in a bipartisan fashion to do what needs to be done for the betterment of the citizens of the state of Washington, and I’m continually proud to serve alongside my colleagues from both sides of the aisle.”
King said the supplemental budget reduces administrative positions at the state Department of Transportation by 5-to-7 percent and reduces costs elsewhere by eliminating duplicative and unnecessary reporting requirements.
“Our priorities were to maintain effective freight mobility for our businesses and smooth, safe travel for everyone who uses the roads,” said Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, the committee’s vice chair. “Interrupting or delaying our major projects would have set us back years and escalated the cost of those projects.”
Eide further noted that delays to projects that improve freight mobility and transit options would hurt businesses’ ability to move products and workers’ ability to get to and from jobs at a time when they’re already struggling to recover from the Great Recession.
“Even though revenue forecasts show no growth in transportation revenues over the next 10 years, for now we’re benefiting from $320 million in savings on projects that have been completed ahead of schedule and under budget,” said Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, the committee’s vice ranking member. "This enables us to shift savings on the north end of Interstate 405 down to the connector with SR 167. This is a major point of congestion in our region, which we are taking an important step towards addressing."
Fain said some of the other larger projects include improvements on Snoqualmie Pass, preliminary engineering on the Columbia River Crossing under a matched spending agreement with Oregon, and mobility improvements along Interstate 5 in the Joint Base Lewis McChord area made possible by $15 million in federal TIGER funding grants. Additionally, Fain advocated for $5 million in additional funds to the SR 509 corridor expansion between I-5 and SR 167 through SeaTac. "509 is a major freight corridor to the valley cities, and completing this corridor could have the added benefit of reducing demand on congested portions of I-5 through South King County," he said.
“Though we have limited dollars to play with, we’re dedicating funds to strategic programs that protect the public,” said Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, the fifth member of the transportation budget cabinet. “That includes full-time, high visibility DUI enforcement teams in high-problem areas, a facial recognition program at the Department of Licensing that has been proven to cut down on identity theft and fraud, and increased accountability for drivers convicted of DUI.”
Hobbs said the budget’s full funding relies on the passage of several transportation fee bills being heard in the House. SB 6455 and SB 6150 would increase a number of transportation fees that have not kept up with the rate of inflation, providing revenue to fund the Washington State Patrol and general highway operations and maintenance. The fees pertain to motorists’ certificates of title, license plates, driver’s license renewals, identicards, and auto dealer documents.
The $800 million increase in the supplementary budget is primarily a result of the full appropriation of existing bond authorization for the SR 520 Bridge replacement but also reflects revenues generated by fee bills to address shortfalls forecast for the state’s major transportation accounts.
The full budget can be found online at http://www1.leg.wa.gov/Senate/Committees/TRAN/.
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For more information: Rick Manugian, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7569
For more information: Erich Ebel, Senate Republican Communications, 360-786-7569