State House passes transpo bill with lots of bike/walk funding, highway spending

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 3.36.27 PMThe Washington State House of Representatives today passed a transportation bill that would save King County Metro operations and invest about $323 million in biking and walking projects, road safety and complete streets projects and Safe Routes to School.

The bill also includes billions in new highway spending, including funds for the controversial Columbia River Crossing to Portland.

The Bicycle Alliance of Washington is urging people to contact their state Senators and support passage of the bill, which contains an unprecedented amount of money for biking and walking projects.

From Bike WA:

Are biking and walking projects worth the price of one gallon of gas per year?

This afternoon on a 51-41 vote the state House of Representatives passed a transportation revenue package that invests in safer bike lanes, trails, and sidewalks for Washingtonians.

Now it’s up to the state senate to decide if they will support investments for Washington kids to safely walk and bike to school, and if they will support connecting our neighborhoods for a better future for all of us. With a July 1 deadline, the next 27 hours are critical—this could all be over by Friday afternoon.

We need you to take action RIGHT AWAY to let the state senate know investments in walking and biking are important for not just people who walk and bike, but for all Washingtonians.

We aren’t asking for much. In the context of a multi-billion-dollar transportation package, at $323 million for biking and walking projects over the course of 12 years the state of Washington would invest $3.90 per Washingtonian per year on bike/walk infrastructure for safer streets and greater connectivity—roughly the cost of a 16-ounce latte or a gallon of gas.

This vote represents the last step to ensure that $323 million will be spent on projects that improve your neighborhoods, improve safety, and spur economic development in cities across Washington. Gov. Inslee has already expressed his strong support for this investment.

Please contact your state senator today to let him/her know you support safer streets for all Washingtonians and you support the investments in walking and biking at the levels in the House transportation package.

The message is simple: Vote yes on HB 1954 for transportation funding and protect the bike/walk funding.

Contact your legislator.

By phone: Call 1-800-562-6000. The operator will route your message to your senator. Your message: I SUPPORT funding biking and walking at the levels in the House transportation revenue package. Vote YES on HB 1954.

By email: Enter your mailing address on the district finder form (choose Legislative, not Congressional) and follow the instructions on the site to reach a contact form for your state senator.

Points you can include in your email:

I support the House transportation package as passed in HB 1954, specifically the safety investments for kids, bicycling, walking, and safer streets across Washington.

The total per year in the package for biking/walking projects is only $3.90 per Washingtonian—a small investment with big returns.

Your support for a revenue package that retains the walking and biking project investments currently included in the House proposal is necessary for me to support such a package.

Please support a transportation revenue proposal that fixes our transportation crises – fix our crumbling roads & bridges, keep our buses moving, make our streets safer and cleaner. You can and must act to keep our economy moving and me and my neighbors safe.

Thank you for your support and for supporting a transportation system that works for all Washingtonians.

Washington’s bicycle advocacy groups are definitely at an interesting moment, shifting from being an outsider interest to having a real seat at the table. But such a change definitely comes with growing pains and disagreement. Is $323 million for biking and walking projects enough sugar to help the bitter pill of massive highway expansions go down? Many would say no, especially those bitterly opposed to the CRC.

On the other hand, if bike groups are going to become an actual real-deal lobby (as so many radio shock jocks already seem to think it is), then shouldn’t the main job of bike advocate groups be securing bike/walk funding despite other problems with the package? They’re the bike lobby, not the anti-highway lobby. Don’t bike advocates need to be at the table with construction interests and state government transportation officials so we can get them as excited about a trail and urban cycling network as they would be for a highway project? Isn’t this is how the sausage is made? Or is it just selling out?

I don’t claim to have the answer. I know that $323 million would go a LOOOOOOONG way for walking and biking in the state. I also know Metro needs funding. But I find it very difficult to support such highway expansion funding. Maybe a bill that makes everyone a little happy and everyone a little mad is just a sign of governmental compromise.

Rep. Marko Liias certainly thinks this bill is a good thing for walking and biking:

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12 Responses to State House passes transpo bill with lots of bike/walk funding, highway spending

  1. Steve Jetson says:

    One main problem is that setting aside $5-6 BILLION ($5,000 to $6,000 million) for huge highway projects that will be bonded for 30-35 years means that for the next two generations WSDOT’s coffers will be dry for bike/ped funds (maintenance needs will also be being forgone, bad for rural bicyclists who ride WSDOT roads).

    Moreover, the amounts in the package don’t fully fund the projects – they start the projects, and the legislature will have to allocate even more funds to complete them.

    WSDOT is already set to have 60-70% of their budget go to debt service; this will make the problem worse.

    And another main problem is the highway projects create non-bikeable communities. That is, expansions = sprawl = less bikeable.

    So, yes, the bike lobby very much needs to be concerned about the highway parts of this package, as they directly impact biking for generations.

    Short term gains coupled with long term loss.

    • Gary says:

      “WSDOT is already set to have 60-70% of their budget go to debt service; this will make the problem worse.”

      No wonder the Waterfront tunnel and the 520 bridge aren’t fully funded!

      If we pass an initiative, it should be that projects must be fully funded BEFORE the first shovel of dirt is turned. It would be one thing if these projects generated revenue for the state as 1/2 built, but you can’t drive through 1/2 a tunnel, or across 1/2 a bridge, so no new economic growth comes from the construction… well some because of the wages paid come back as taxes, but at best that’s a 20% return.

  2. biliruben says:

    How does 323 mil compare to the last transpo package?

    Highway expansions are sucko, but I’m not sure we can do better. Maybe we can. Dunno.

  3. Southeasterner says:

    I think bike/transit advocates need to be extremely careful on the CRC project. Let’s not forget that the republicans opposed to CRC are not opposed to the highway portion of the bridge, they are opposed to the inclusion of light rail which is tied to most of the federal funding. If the republicans in the state senate kill the revenue package it almost certainly means we lose the $850 million in federal new starts funding, and our $450 million highway/light rail project will go to plan B, a 12 lane highway without rail (and federal funding) costing WA tax payers over $900 million. Where will republicans find an extra $450 million? From transit, bike/ped projects, ferries, and other programs that are not essential to highway development.

    At the national level WA’s republican congressional representatives are the ones leading the fight to end the availability of new starts funding for CRC, almost guaranteeing that light rail will never be part of CRC if the WA transportation revenue package doesn’t pass during this special session. Essentially our republican state representatives are fighting to double the cost of CRC for WA tax payers and give you no transportation alternatives.

    http://m.columbian.com/news/2013/jun/18/herrera-beutler-crc-must-meet-funding-permitting-r/

  4. biliruben says:

    Maybe we need a statewide initiative that for any highway expansions to take place, there has to be evidence that miles driven has increased to warrant said expansion.

    • Al Dimond says:

      You can always make an argument that there’s enough usage or growth to warrant expansion — since the opening of the current facility there’s almost certainly been traffic growth. If there wasn’t, most of the expansion projects would have no support at all.

      The problem is that the expansions are financially irresponsible, environmentally irresponsible, and work against our stated policy objectives.

  5. Evan Manvel says:

    Southeasterner – that’s not my read. There are a large number of Oregon-side governments (as well as Sen. Patty Murray) who’ve said without light rail, there’s no CRC. It’s not likely to move forward as a highways-only project.

    So if we defeat it, we’ll free up hundreds of millions of dollars ($450 m + bond costs + cost overruns + filling revenue shortfalls, etc.) for higher priorities — maintenance, safety and choice.

  6. Ive been following the CRC for years now. I would love to get some more balance in funding for our various modes of transportation. Presently we spend less than a penny on bike and ped infrastructure for every dollar we spend on auto investments, so this would seem like a good idea. The prob is A) bike and ped stuff is almost ALWAYS the first part that gets cut (it is seen as non critical because ya know, who actually has legs to walk on) and B) the strings attached to this will only perpetuate the problem.

    323 million (0.3 billion) for bikes.
    3500 million (3.5 billion) for cars.

    This is just more playing their game by their rules meaning they win.

    Stop the CRC this project is bad for Cascadia and promises bankrupt our future.

  7. Hart says:

    Freeways are stupid. Any politician pouring more money into freeways needs to be voted out of office.

  8. Peter W says:

    A couple things to note:

    1. The 323 million would be just 3% of the $9,000 million package.

    2. I suspect that the bike/ped/environmental lobby could get more than 3% (unless of course there is no money left because megaprojects have sucked it all up). In fact a recent poll shows that while support in the West for a 10 cent gas tax increase to be used for maintenance and expansion is only 27%, while support for a tax that goes specifically to projects to reduce global warming is 55% (and 57% for fighting air pollution, and 63% for improving safety).

  9. Peter W says:

    For more info on that poll I referenced:

    http://transweb.sjsu.edu/project/1228.html

  10. Pingback: WA transpo package failure kills CRC highway project and bike/walk funding, hangs Metro out to dry | Seattle Bike Blog

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