We’re very fortunate that Congress funneled some of the ARRA (stimulus) funds directly to the PSRC, because Olympia was (and is) a black hole for transit.

We knew that state funding of transit is well below par in Washington, but a new report from Smart Growth America about the flexible portion of each state’s transportation stimulus funding laid out just how reactionary the legislature’s position is.  No surprise here, but our state put exactly zero into public transportation,and 4% into bicycle and pedestrian projects.  As Erica C. Barnett points out, 16 states beat us in the former category and 21 in the latter.

As the Transportation Choices press release observes, the road money wasn’t even spent well: 29% went to new highway construction, rather than clearing the sizable maintenance backlog on the state’s roads.  This kind of project does little for driver safety and simply encourages sprawl, as well as being less job-intensive than regular maintenance.

22 Replies to “State Stimulus Spending Stiffed Transit”

  1. My understanding was that Mass transit ie. Sound transit, would be funded from another pool of money. So that the highways which also needed maintenance would be paid from the “Stimulus” money.

    While I would have liked to see at least some, say 10% of the money go to bicycle issues/trails etc, the way the legislation moved and who controlled the purse strings was pretty fast at keeping that from happening. Typical highway lobby steam roller job.

    1. The highways which also needed maintenance didn’t exactly need expansion, as Martin points out.

      So at some nebulous time in the future we may or may not fund transit, when other states saw fit to fund it here? Just goes to show you how bad our legislators are.

      1. It doesn’t help that the Speaker of the House who’s supposed to represent Capitol Hill, The U District and Wallingford seems to be firmly in the pocket of the BIAW and the Washington State Asphalt Paving Association. Screw Transit! Screw Seattle! More Sprawl!

        A glaring example of a project that should have gotten stimulus money is the 14th Ave South bridge. This thing is going to be closed by the engineers or fall in the water before it gets replaced. I believe it has one of the lowest condition ratings of any bridge in the country that is still open to traffic (3 out of 100).

      2. Is that the Beacon Hill bridge or the South Park bridge? Or is there another one?

      3. The South Park bridge. I think the Beacon Hill bridge has a formal name and is on 12th Ave S.

      4. It’s interesting that Chopp seems to be crazy, and far from his constituents on urban issues. Where does his power come from? Is it just a matter of longevity of tenure? Or do some people like him enough to keep giving him lots of money?

      5. Well at least in the last election his opponent was totally inexperienced and didn’t really have much of a platform.

        I just moved out of his district or else I’d run against him in the next election. I would lose, but at least I would call him out on his anti-transit positions. I think it’s all about reminding him that his re-election depends on satisfying his constituents, not just his campaign donors.

    1. Not to mess around with it? Our legislators debated the whole thing, and chose not to fund projects like R8A in favor of 405 expansion.

    2. Oh lordy … the usual pack of idiots is commenting on that Seattle Times article.

      Don’t these people realize what an adverse impact shutting down the ferry system or privatizing it would have on Kitsap, Island, Jefferson, Clallam, and San Juan Counties? Sure cut off their economic and transportation lifeline, but how about we do the same to whatever counties the complainers live in?

      Furthermore due to the Navy facilities in Bremerton, Bangor, Keyport, Manchester, Whidbey, and Indian Island the Federal government has a rather large interest in maintaining a majority of the State Ferry runs.

  2. This sucks. We could have built D to M street, we could have done pedestrian improvements, we could have added another Amtrak Cascades round trip to both employ people and improve transportation access – but no, let’s build some more highways instead. Why not? We’ve been doing it for a hundred years, it’s a winner!

    Nobody look at the seawall replacement that isn’t high enough for 2100 sea level increases…

  3. What a load of utter bollocks!!!

    Washington State has the best public transportation in the US. Sure, mass transit wise we’re overbuilt and behind the curve, but as for basic mobility there is no equal.

    I ask to be corrected on this argument. Tell me of another state that has the transit coverage, service quality, and reasonable fares that we do.

    The fact that transit in Washington State is largely locally funded (except for redistribution of federal grants with state monies for rural and regional mobility projects) is immaterial.

    The idea that a state government provides funding for a skeletal transit system while the local government shifts little or no money, is not a superior implementation to our own.

    Brian Bradford
    Olympia, WA

    1. “we’re overbuilt and behind the curve”?

      Which is it? My bus the 101 is constantly jam packed even with the downturn in the economy. I’m lucky to get a crush standing spot on it going home.

      Light rail at a mere 14 miles of track can hardly be called “overbuilt”. One street car in the Lake Union area for a mere 1.5 miles of track “overbuilt?” Gone is the waterfront street car even though the tracks and stations are all there.

      1. Overbuilt refers to the level of finish that Central Link has been built to.

        Behind the curve refers to the fact that we’re so far behind where we need to be. The overbuilding is a contributor to this.

        If you want to know why Portland’s built so much light rail and we’ve built so little, go down there and look at how they construct their facilities.

        Portland’s MAX is built like a combination street car and interurban railroad, which is essentially what light rail is.

        Central Link is built like a high-frequency metro line, saddled with claustrophobia-inducing light rail trains. This is really no surprise, as if you take a look at Tacoma Link, it’s a standard LRT line that uses streetcars!

        Brian Bradford
        Olympia, WA

      2. Next time we have to tear down a viaduct, let me know again how overbuilt Central Link is. We aren’t building for 50 years here, we’re building for 200. That’s the best way to save money in the long run. Underbuilding just leads to having to cut service later or have trains crash into each other because maintenance becomes so expensive.

        Portland has built for less density, and they’re paying for it in overcrowding on the MAX already. We’ve got a much larger downtown core than they do, twice the tall buildings, and we’re growing faster than they are.

        The state government should be providing the level of funding they do in Portland. Just because we’ve chosen to spend more at the local level doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get state funds – it means we want it more, and want it done right, so perhaps the state should start backing us up before our legislators start seeing challengers?

      3. 200 years?? Well maybe it will last that long.. the waterfront street car lasted a whole 15 years, and the last street car line we had was about 30 years. But with a 8.+ earthquake due in this area it doesn’t look over built to me.

        What the state government should have provided was cover for the funding, i.e. bond guarantees. In the pre-recession days, we could have had a much better rating than we get with just the 3 county rating. It would have freed up money paid in interest for capital equipment & materials.

      4. We’re AAA – I don’t know what you want past that. Can you go higher with state backing?

      5. ST’s bond rating is higher than the State’s. State backing wouldn’t really help.

    2. You know, I might be persuaded to believe that the State believes in locally funded transit if the Governor (at a legislator’s request) hadn’t vetoed a bill that allowed local governments to fund transit. The Seattle metro area has demonstrated that it’s willing to pay for good transit. One of the big problems we’ve got is that the State seems to think its job is to stop us from spending our tax money to build transit we want. That’s what’s ridiculous!

      1. I know that the Gov vetoed the bill, but didn’t know that it was at a specific legislator’s request. It WAS local option, so the rationale for the veto eluded me. Who requested?

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