HomeTop StoriesInslee signs the final transportation budget and warns against heavy sledding

Inslee signs the final transportation budget and warns against heavy sledding

Like governor Jay Inslee prepared to sign the final transportation spending plan of his 12-year term on Thursday, he described the bumpy road ahead for lawmakers and his successor.

“Revenues will come under pressure for road construction, preservation and maintenance, and improving highway infrastructure,” he said. “Project costs are rising due to inflation, supply chain issues and competition for contractors.”

This budget, he said, “sets the stage for some big conversations.” It addresses immediate funding issues while recognizing that “additional solutions will be needed” in future sessions.

A measure on the November ballot adds another layer of financial uncertainty.

Initiative 2117, if approved by voters, would repeal the Climate Commitment Act, which has so far generated more than $1 billion in transportation spending from the auction of emissions allowances. And it is expected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in coming years.

“The fact is that repealing the Climate Commitment Act would leave a hole in our already stressed transportation funding,” Inslee said.

No lawmakers were present Thursday for the signing of House Bill 2134, which passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

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It builds on decisions in the two-year, $13.6 billion transportation budget adopted last year. In total, it adds $1 billion in additional spending.

Some of the bigger ticket items include $260 million for highway preservation, such as repairing potholes and replacing highway expansion joints, and $150 million for continued work to remove culverts in accordance with a federal lawsuit.

Climate Commitment Act revenues account for $324 million in expenditures, but none of the dollars can be spent until January 1.

That money will go toward purchasing hybrid-electric fire trucks, installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure, converting existing ferries to hybrid-electric power and expanding air quality monitoring. The development of fusion technology and green hydrogen are also supported.

The state’s ferry system received a lot of attention.

There is money to strengthen recruitment and training programs for the cash-strapped Washington State Ferries and to provide clarity on how the state will pursue construction of up to five new 144-car hybrid electric ferries.

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Related: Ferry maintenance, route support and impact study funded from the House transport budget

And $100,000 will go to the Joint Transportation Committee, a bipartisan, bicameral panel, to convene a working group to identify new revenue sources to keep the agency afloat as it approaches its 75th anniversary in June 2026. A preliminary report is expected in December.

This supplemental budget provides a way to proceed with the replacement of the Portage Bay Bridge on a stretch of State Route 520 in Seattle between the Montlake Bridge interchange and Interstate 5.

When project bids came in hundreds of millions of dollars over budget, the Washington State Department of Transportation did not award a contract, waiting for lawmakers to figure out how to cover the difference.

The answer they came up with covers a $78 million gap in the current budget cycle. For the remaining amount – estimated at $770 million over several years – their solution relies on money not yet available, such as increasing tolls on the floating bridge and deferring the contractor’s sales tax payment until the project is completed. is completed.

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On the road safety side, Inslee mentioned a pilot program to test different speed camera technologies on Interstate 5 and increased efforts to hire more Washington State Patrol troopers.

Inslee didn’t get everything he wanted. He noted, as he has often in recent weeks, that lawmakers have not provided all the money he sought for his encampment initiative, which clears rights-of-way and gets people into housing.

He asked the Department of Transportation for $10 million to continue his work clearing highway encampments. In the final budget signed Thursday, the department received just $2 million.

“It is not enough to meet the growing needs of people experiencing homelessness along our state highways,” he said. “Future lawmakers will need to address this lack of funding so that we can continue this highly successful program.”

This article originally appeared on the Kitsap Sun: Inslee signs final transportation budget and warns of heavy sledding

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