Initial $15 billion transportation package presented by Senate Transportation Chair

Senate Transportation Chair Steve Hobbs released a comprehensive $15 billion transportation plan yesterday, reports The Lens.

Senate Transportation Committee Chair Steve Hobbs (D-44) has unveiled an initial $15 billion Forward Washington transportation package that relies in part on revenues from a cap-and-trade bill. Though Hobbs and other committee members speaking at an April 6 work session said more tweaks will be made before advancing, testimony offered by a variety of stakeholders was mostly positive – though some did express concerns over the proposal.

Reporter TJ Martinell summarizes the major elements of the plan.

As currently written, the package would spend a total of $15.4 billion, funded primarily by $5 billion from an increase to the state gas tax of $.098 per gallon, with another $5 billion from 2SSB 5126’s cap-and-trade program. Another $800 million would be generated from a new statewide special transportation benefit assessment, or impact fees, while $700 million would come from new per-trip fees for third-party delivery services.

The transportation package would fund several major projects in the state, including $2.3 billion in fish barrier removal as part of a U.S. court injunction affecting culverts on state highways. Another $3.1 billion would fund the replacement of the I-5 Bridge spanning the Columbia River from Vancouver to Portland.

More detail in the story. Here’s the revenue breakdown

Last week we wrote of Keep Washington Rolling letter 100 groups sent the governor and legislative leadership urging action this session on a comprehensive transportation bill. Several members of that coalition testified in support of the Forward Washington proposal.

Speaking in favor of the bill, Washington Roundtable Vice President Neil Strege told the committee that regarding major infrastructure and preservation needs in the state, “this plan accomplishes all of those goals. We urge you to begin negotiating as soon as possible.”

Also in support was Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce CEO Rachael Smith. “Our transportation system faced major funding gaps before COVID, and we simply can’t return to pre-pandemic (funding) levels.”

Bellevue City Councilmember Jennifer Robertson told the committee “we urge you to pass the package this session,” noting that Bellevue is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. “With that growth comes immense pressure; we must tackle these challenges.”

The Seattle Times today reports on the state’s deteriorating highways and bridges. The backlog is substantial.

The state would need to spend an estimated $14.8 billion over the coming decade, or nearly $2,000 per resident, to achieve “minimally acceptable condition,” meaning roads, ferries and bridges could be maintained faster than they crumble. That’s twice the current spending on preservation, which WSDOT defines as planned repairs that extend the life of an asset, as opposed to stopgap jobs like pothole filling.

More to come.