Friday, April 22, 2011

$9 Billion Transportation Budget Approved by Both Chambers

The Transportation budget is on its way to the Governor’s desk. In March we posted a comparison of all of the proposed budgets from the Gov, House, and Senate. So how did we fare in the final budget?

The total transportation budget is $9 billion, which includes operating and capital expenses. This is slightly higher than the 2009-2011 biennial transportation budget, and represents the largest transportation budget ever. The primary sources of revenue in this bill are bonds, motor vehicle fuel tax (gas tax), federal funds, and license, permits and fees, and ferry fares. The budget includes over $4 billion for highway construction, a record amount for Washington that reflects the peak of spending for the Nickel and TPA projects. State Patrol receives $364 million of the total package. Transit, vanpools, bike and pedestrian spending make up about 1% of the total budget.

Public Transportation

We are very pleased to see the final budget includes $40 million for the Regional Mobility Grant program which is a crucial grant program funding transit agency capital and operating needs. This is restoring $20 million in cuts that the Governor proposed, and gets the program back to previous funding levels. Also, the budget includes $17 million for rural mobility grants and $25 million for special needs transportation provided by transit agencies and non profits.

The final budget includes $6 million for a vanpool grant program, including $520,000 for vanpools at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It also includes $2.3 million for the tri-county connection service for Island, Skagit, and Whatcom transit agencies.

Unfortunately, the public transportation division at WSDOT took a hit, reducing the department by 7.8 FTEs. Drastic cuts are happening throughout the agency, this budget directs a cut of 800 engineering staff by 2015.

Non- Motorized

The final budget includes $11.8 million for safe routes to school and $9.8 million for bicycle and pedestrian safety projects. To put this in funding in perspective, WSDOT received 124 Safe Route to School applications with total requests of $43 million. Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Program applications are by invitation only- but there are at least $5million in contingency projects that have applied.


The final budget included $10 million is provided for WSDOT to meet its obligations under federal permit requirements. Funding will support the completion of planning activities and basic infrastructure investments. Governor Gregoire originally proposed $15 million to meet federal obligations, but the final budget did not reflect this amount. There is no money in the budget to address the need for stormwater retrofit projects at the local level.

Rep. Upthegrove (D-33) did not approve the budget because of the political maneuvering that altered the regional mobility grant project list. He joined two other Democrats with his "no" vote. Rep. Hasegawa and Rep. Carlyle.

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