Today, the AP reports that Governor Gregoire plans to propose a highway expansion package before leaving office. This is billed as a “transportation” package, but there has been no mention of transit – the major projects circulating so far are highway expansion, including plenty of new suburban lanes. She’s said it would “rival” the 2005 highway expansion package, which included almost nothing for transit.
As Governor-elect Inslee has committed to vetoing any direct tax increase, this package would very likely go to the voters. Gregoire seems to already be framing it with that in mind – talking about “maintenance,” and avoiding direct discussion of expansion. This is a good strategy; in 2007, highway expansion proved to be extremely unpopular with Puget Sound voters, the voters that the state relies on to pass tax increases.
With yesterday’s Republican coup in Olympia, Senate Transportation will likely be co-chaired by Senator Eide and a Republican, making the chances of a separate local options package for transit agencies, cities and counties nearly nil.
With Obama’s commitment to addressing climate change nationally, several local counties in bad shape, Tacoma and Seattle looking for revenue for streetcar expansion, and Sound Transit jump starting planning for Sound Transit 3, voters won’t be interested in big highway projects. Gregoire needs to come out swinging for transit, not promote suburban sprawl.