SDOT's pedestrian and bicycle bridge at Northgate
Looking south towards downtown Seattle from Northgate, with the Seattle Department of Transportation's big contribution to the Northgate Station project front and center: a pedestrian and bicycle bridge across Interstate 5 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

This after­noon, at a press con­fer­ence held elec­tron­i­cal­ly, the Ever­green State’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic trans­porta­tion chairs and vice chairs took the wraps off of a pro­posed trans­porta­tion pack­age dubbed Move Ahead Washington.

Nego­ti­at­ed by teams led by House Trans­porta­tion Chair Jake Fey and Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Chair Marko Liias, Move Ahead Wash­ing­ton would make sub­stan­tial, bil­lion-dol­lar mul­ti­modal invest­ments in roads, bridges, fer­ries, and pub­lic tran­sit over the next sev­er­al years, financed through fund trans­fers, bonds, and mul­ti­ple fee increas­es along with high­er tax­es on jet fuel and export­ed fuel.

Repub­li­cans were not involved in the craft­ing of the pack­age, though Fey and Liias stressed to reporters that they are in fre­quent con­sul­ta­tions with their Repub­li­can coun­ter­parts and will wel­come their com­men­tary on the pro­pos­al as it gets put under a micro­scope as part of the usu­al leg­isla­tive process.

“Wash­ing­ton is a nation­wide leader on so many issues, and we can con­tin­ue to show our pro­gres­sive val­ues in the trans­porta­tion sec­tor,” said Liias. “From let­ting kids ride free on tran­sit and fer­ries, to increas­ing pub­lic tran­sit options and invest­ing in pedes­tri­an and road safe­ty projects, this is a win for our entire state.”

“This pack­age is key for an acces­si­ble, sus­tain­able future in Washington’s trans­porta­tion sec­tor,” said Fey. “We’ve worked hard over the last two years to lis­ten to com­mu­ni­ties all across Wash­ing­ton, and they told us that their top pri­or­i­ties includ­ed pre­serv­ing our infra­struc­ture, fin­ish­ing projects we’ve start­ed, tak­ing action against cli­mate change, expand­ing mul­ti­modal options, and address­ing the harm of past trans­porta­tion poli­cies. I’m proud that this pack­age reflects all those things to invest in every Wash­ing­ton community.”

“Move Ahead Wash­ing­ton,” unveiled by Sen­a­tor Liias and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fey today, includes a his­toric invest­ment in pub­lic tran­sit ser­vice. said Todd Mor­row, Wash­ing­ton State Tran­sit Asso­ci­a­tion Board Pres­i­dent and Island Tran­sit Exec­u­tive Direc­tor. “This new fund­ing will sig­nif­i­cant­ly improve access to oppor­tu­ni­ties for all Wash­ing­to­ni­ans, through pub­lic tran­sit ser­vice that is more robust, acces­si­ble, and envi­ron­men­tal­ly sus­tain­able. It is crit­i­cal that this pack­age be passed.”

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee released a state­ment declar­ing his sup­port for the package.

“The Move Ahead Wash­ing­ton pro­pos­al will pro­vide major ben­e­fits to com­mu­ni­ties all across our state,” said the gov­er­nor. “As our state con­tin­ues to grow, we need to make sure peo­ple and busi­ness­es have safe, reli­able trans­porta­tion options.”

“Impor­tant­ly, this pack­age rec­og­nizes the need to reduce emis­sions in our trans­porta­tion sec­tor by pri­or­i­tiz­ing bil­lions of dol­lars to clean trans­porta­tion ini­tia­tives includ­ing fund­ing for four new hybrid-elec­tric ves­sels, sup­port for new state and local decar­boniza­tion projects, and his­toric invest­ments in tran­sit, bicy­cle and pedes­tri­an infra­struc­ture,” Inslee added.

“I am espe­cial­ly appre­cia­tive this pack­age includes fund­ing to replace the I‑5 bridge over the Colum­bia Riv­er; keeps our legal com­mit­ment to remove fish pas­sage bar­ri­ers on our state high­ways; and con­tin­ues work on ultra-high-speed rail.”

“I would like to thank House Trans­porta­tion Chair Jake Fey and Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Chair Marko Liias for lead­ing on this effort. I encour­age the House and Sen­ate to move this pack­age through ses­sion as quick­ly as possible.”

The basics of Move Ahead Washington

Past Wash­ing­ton State trans­porta­tion pack­ages have been extreme­ly high­way-cen­tric. NPI’s research shows that vot­ers would pre­fer a more safe­ty and cli­mate focused approach, and Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors have respond­ed by offer­ing a pack­age that is far more bal­anced than those of bygone years.

  • High­way con­struc­tion: Leg­is­la­tors are propos­ing to invest approx­i­mate­ly $4 bil­lion in high­way projects, includ­ing the rebuild­ing of State Route 520 through Seat­tle and the Colum­bia Riv­er Crossing.
  • Main­te­nance: The pack­age would pro­vide $3 bil­lion to address the state’s grow­ing road and bridge main­te­nance needs, which are significant.
  • Tran­sit and Mul­ti­modal Projects: $3 bil­lion would be invest­ed in pub­lic tran­sit and in projects that make walk­ing and bik­ing safer. $150 mil­lion would be ded­i­cat­ed to ultra high speed rail planning.
  • Fer­ries: The state would invest in four new hybrid elec­tric ves­sels as well as the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of cur­rent ves­sels and ter­mi­nal improvements.

With respect to rev­enue, the pack­age would rely prin­ci­pal­ly on rev­enue gen­er­at­ed from the state’s cap and invest ini­tia­tive, the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act, along with fed­er­al dol­lars and a one-time trans­fer of funds from the oper­at­ing budget.

Addi­tion­al rev­enue would come from sell­ing bonds, tax­ing export­ed fuel and jet fuel, and increas­ing more than half a dozen fees, such as the fee to get an enhanced dri­ver’s license, the stolen vehi­cle check fee, and deal­er tem­po­rary per­mit. How­ev­er, unlike in past trans­porta­tion pack­ages, such as those enact­ed in 2003, 2005, and 2015, this one does­n’t include a gas tax increase.

Delving deeper: Where to go if you want to read more

Here’s the text of the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that would autho­rize the package:

Here are sup­port­ing documents:

Where would the transit investments go?

Here is a high lev­el break­down of the tran­sit invest­ments cour­tesy of WSTA:

Fund­ing increas­es for cur­rent programs

  • $600 mil­lion in trans­porta­tion invest­ments for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties; dou­bling the cur­rent fund­ing levels.
  • $200 mil­lion to the Green Trans­porta­tion Cap­i­tal Grant Pro­gram; dou­bling the cur­rent fund­ing levels

Fund­ing for new tran­sit programs:

  • $1.45 bil­lion in Tran­sit Sup­port Grants, for­mu­la-based funds that will be dis­trib­uted to every agency in the state to ensure that those 18 and younger can ride free.
  • $400 mil­lion in Bus and Bus Facil­i­ty Grants to sup­port agen­cies in their cap­i­tal needs such as bus replace­ment and expan­sion, and facil­i­ty refur­bish­ment, expan­sion and/or replace­ment. These grants will pro­vide near­ly $50 mil­lion per bien­ni­um in com­pet­i­tive cap­i­tal grants.
  • $293 mil­lion in tran­sit-spe­cif­ic projects to agen­cies includ­ing King Coun­ty Metro, Com­mu­ni­ty Tran­sit, Pierce Tran­sit, Spokane Tran­sit, C‑TRAN, Kit­sap Tran­sit, Inter­ci­ty Tran­sit, Island Tran­sit, Ben Franklin Tran­sit, What­com Trans­porta­tion Author­i­ty, Yaki­ma Tran­sit, Skag­it Tran­sit, and Colum­bia Coun­ty Pub­lic Transportation.
  • $80 mil­lion to a Trib­al Grant Pro­gram to sup­port trib­al tran­sit service.

The tran­sit project list linked above goes into more detail.

Our assessment

We have been exam­in­ing the details of the pack­age and have some thoughts.

The good

NPI applauds the deci­sion to abol­ish fares for Wash­ing­to­ni­ans under the age of eigh­teen for all modes (local tran­sit, Amtrak Cas­cades inter­ci­ty rail, and fer­ries). While we would have liked to see fares go away for every­one, this is a good start towards accom­plish­ing that impor­tant long term goal.

We’re also glad to see fund­ing for safe routes to school, green tran­sit grants, trib­al tran­sit mobil­i­ty grants, and com­plete streets.

This pro­pos­al def­i­nite­ly offers “big” pub­lic tran­sit invest­ments, which a large major­i­ty of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans say that they sup­port, along with pri­or­i­tiz­ing fish pas­sage, road main­te­nance, and bridge safety.

Right now, accord­ing to WSTA, the state pro­vides tran­sit agen­cies a col­lec­tive $265 mil­lion every two years. The new fund­ing increase pro­vides an addi­tion­al $382 mil­lion per bien­ni­um for a total invest­ment per bien­ni­um of near­ly $650 mil­lion. That’s a mean­ing­ful increase, on top of the fund­ing the state is pro­vid­ing to enable all youth to ride tran­sit with­out pay­ing fares.

We’re glad that mon­ey for new fer­ry­boats is includ­ed, too, although Wash­ing­ton needs more than what has been pro­posed in this package.

And it’s good that mon­ey is includ­ed for safe­ty-ori­ent­ed projects like the Colum­bia Riv­er Cross­ing, although those projects need to be designed thought­ful­ly, with­out pro­vid­ing for tons of expen­sive new ramps and mas­sive near­by interchanges.

The not-so-good

The Leg­is­la­ture is still propos­ing to spend sig­nif­i­cant sums of mon­ey on projects that would increase high­way capac­i­ty, includ­ing the widen­ing of State Route 18 and the com­ple­tion of State Route 167 in Pierce County.

Con­trary to what many law­mak­ers have said, widen­ing high­ways like SR 18 won’t make them safer, nor will it reduce congestion.

When high­ways are widened, or when new high­ways are built, that encour­ages peo­ple to dri­ve more, a phe­nom­e­non known as induced demand.

WSDOT knows all about induced demand, but it’s still going ahead with already-con­cep­tu­al­ized high­way projects that will induce demand.

We have seri­ous con­cerns about the one time pro­pos­al to trans­fer $2 bil­lion in state rev­enue out of the oper­at­ing bud­get and into trans­porta­tion. This move does­n’t set a good prece­dent, and we favor remov­ing it from the pack­age, or at least reduc­ing the amount of mon­ey to be transferred.

Our schools, col­leges, and uni­ver­si­ties remain under­fund­ed, and the Leg­is­la­ture needs to ded­i­cate more mon­ey to edu­ca­tion. While mak­ing tran­sit free to ride for youth could help get kids to school, we have utter­ly failed to prop­er­ly fund pri­or­i­ties like spe­cial edu­ca­tion, school nurs­es, music and the arts, or cap­i­tal projects to ensure all school­child­ren have safe build­ings to learn in. Those needs are no less impor­tant than any of the trans­porta­tion pri­or­i­ties dis­cussed above.

On bal­ance

We like this pack­age and will be sup­port­ing it, while urg­ing that the oper­at­ing fund trans­fer idea be removed from the package.

We thank Sen­a­tor Liias and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fey for their lead­er­ship in putting this togeth­er. Mak­ing the most of an oppor­tu­ni­ty to deliv­er for Wash­ing­to­ni­ans in a short leg­isla­tive ses­sion is exact­ly what our law­mak­ers should be doing.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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3 replies on “Democratic legislators unveil 2022 Move Ahead Washington transportation package”

  1. para­phras­ing the appro­pri­ate quote here: “Fight­ing traf­fic con­ges­tion by widen­ing high­ways is like loos­en­ing your belt to fight obesity.”

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