Following the release of the House’s transportation budget on Monday, the Senate released their budget yesterday. The Tacoma News Tribune has a good summary:

Outside of the ferry system (more on that below), the two proposals are fairly similar, reflecting a lack of money to pursue many new projects beyond those already in the pipeline.

Both budgets restore cuts [$20 million dollars] Gov. Chris Gregoire would have made to transit agency grants. Locally, the program would spend $3.5 million on a Hawks Prairie park-and-ride project and $3 million on the planned commuter rail connection to Lakewood. The Senate version also would provide $701,000 for Pierce Transit to improve bus access in Parkland.

There are now three very different proposals for increasing ferry fares. Senators said their plan assumes approval of a 25-cent surcharge on each ferry fare, but otherwise it wouldn’t increase fares more than the 2.5 percent hike already approved.

The House budget doesn’t include the surcharge but would raise fares 7.5 percent instead of 2.5 percent. Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal would change the increase to 10 percent, while adding a different surcharge that would vary based on fuel prices.

The big take away of all three budgets is that transportation funding is essentially in a holding mode. Uncompleted projects identified under the Transportation Partnership and Nickle Package are being pushed out because there simply isn’t enough money for them. Most funds from those packages are already spoken for and are now going to pay off bonds over the next 25 years.

14 Replies to “Senate Transportation Budget Released”

  1. On a side note I will be thrilled to see Dow run for Governor. This is one of many examples that show how horrible Gregoire is when it comes to transit. It will be a sea change to have an Governor that fully supports and understands the needs to Metro and other transit agencies.

    1. I don’t know. Executive is actually a much more important position for transit, and I think he’s been outstanding in that position.

      1. He certainly is. I guess one of the questions is who will become executive after him if he wins?

      1. I’m not wild about highway projects but our political economy does not permit city dwellers to tell the rest of the state — the vast majority of whom will be car dependent for the foreseeable future — to take their roads and shove ’em. My hope is a grand bargain that gets us more transit taxing authority in return for those highways; for example, the biggest thing that annoys me about the tunnel is that the 1st Ave streetcar funding was tossed.

        Constantine (like Conlin) seems to be a pretty clear-eyed and pragmatic guy and I speculate that their thought processes run somewhat the same as I’ve outlined above.

      2. What we need isn’t a cut in highway support or funding. What we need is an increase in transit funding. Infrastructure funding as a whole is already lower than it should be for both highways and transit. WSDOT barely has enough to do proper maintenance on top of replacing aging structures.

        Germany spends $600,000 annually maintaining each mile of the autobahn, yet it puts significant investment (if not more than they do for highways) into transit. You can’t dump one for the other.

  2. Huh, $700,000 for better bus service to Parkland while the urban central area of Tacoma loses tons of bus service… I feel like the priorities there are out of whack.

    1. @alexjonlin, I generally agree with you, but it’s not that simple. Parkland actually has some of Pierce Transit’s best-performing routes, despite being VERY low density. Their route 204 is usually packed, and since there is no service at all on SR 512, the local routes between South Hill and Parkland/Lakewood are the only game in town. As poverty continues to suburbanize, I can see these kinds of decisions being made more often, not less.

  3. I’m starting to wonder if the voting population between the Oregon line and the Canadian Border, and between the Idaho line and the Pacific Ocean, really think we need a State of Washington anymore. The politics of the last couple of decades, topped by the last election, don’t indicate an electorate willing to pay for one.

    However, every time I’m among people under forty, I get the sense that we’ve got the talent, and the good character qualities, and the numbers to get the whole thing turned around. It’s just that the people who belong in politics the most have the least time or taste for it.

    You guys talk to more smart young people than I do. What do you think we need to do? There’s no way the far right deserves the political power it’s got.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Democracy is about who shows up. I am glad a lot of young folks are energized, but if they don’t bother to vote in every election, then “so what?”

      1. Good alias for this topic- sound is exactly the reaction I get every time I ask someone about getting involved in politics.

        It’s not just about who shows up to vote, anymore than safe and efficient driving is about who gets in a car. Running a democratic government, especially one in the form of a republic, is a set of skills, in the hands of those who make the laws and those who elect the lawmakers.

        Here’s an initiative, either to the legislature or as a constitutional amendment: “As a high school graduation requirement in the State of Washington, every student shall demonstrate the ability and the inclination to serve a term in the state legislature.”

        It would be worth it just to watch legislators argue that the above sets the bar too high.

        Mark Dublin

  4. Thanks for pointing out that much of WSDOT’s revenue is tied up in bond payments for the next 25 years – Paula Hammond made that point loud and clear at Transportation Lobby Day, and I think it needs to be pounded again and again and again. Say what you like about WSDOT, it’s not like they’re drowning in available uncommitted revenue.

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