The Seattle Times reported last evening ($) that Governor Inslee and legislative leaders from both houses have reached agreement on a transportation package. Of highest relevance to STB, the package contains the full $15B requested authorization for Sound Transit 3.* This could either give the ST board some flexibility in choosing its revenue sources while still meeting some regional goals, or the whole sum could fund very close to all of the main regional priorities. (See here for a guess as to what $15 billion — as well as some smaller sums — could come out to in terms of project budgets).
Apparently one key Democratic concession was acceptance of the “poison pill” provision that essentially negates any chance of a low-carbon fuel standard in the short term. Gov. Inslee’s quote is worth reproducing in full:
I oppose [the poison pill] and have worked hard to find a better alternative,” Inslee said in a statement. “But legislators tell me it is essential to passing the $15 billion multimodal transportation package and authorizing an additional $15 billion for Sound Transit light rail expansion.
And then there’s the matter of the highways, which have been there from the beginning thanks to bipartisan enthusiasm. As always, the package doesn’t adequately fund highway maintenance and actually makes the problem worse by adding many more decaying lane-miles on SR 520, I-405, SR 167, and in North Spokane. Highway expansion is a futile response to congestion, encourages environmentally damaging driving, and literally destroys neighborhoods. About the only good thing to say about it is that it’s funded by gas taxes, which in a small way offsets a little of the environmental carnage.
A deal isn’t a vote, so we’ll see how Democratic and Republican backbenchers react to what the leadership forged. Those highways, together with the poison pill, have been enough to turn some climate-oriented environmental organizations against the deal and lobby legislators to vote no. As much as I want the ST3 rail investments, it’s hard to blame them.
*According to House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island).