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Governor’s $3.6 billion transpo plan makes no mention of walking and biking

The good news: Governor Gregoire’s $3.6 billion transportation plan includes a small increase in the oil barrel fee to help pay for maintenance of existing state transportation facilities.

The bad news: The plan does not even mention biking and walking, let alone provide funding for Safe Routes to School and other programs that encourage active alternatives to driving.

Going into the legislative session, it’s up to our representatives to make sure the needs of all Washington residents are met no matter how they get around, and to ensure our state also takes positive steps towards a healthier, safer and more economically and environmentally sustainable future.

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Washington State’s largest employment and economic center has the second highest bicycle commuting rate in the country (in fact, 15 percent of people who work in downtown Seattle walk or bike there, and only 34 percent of drive alone). At minimum, the state should fund transportation needs proportionally to how the people of Washington move themselves and their goods today. That means tens of millions of dollars from this plan should go to projects that keep people biking and walking. Anything beyond that would be a wise investment in the future.

And it is an investment that would pay off. Increased walking and biking can save the state an enormous amount of money in healthcare costs, and walking and biking projects create more jobs per dollar spent than highway projects. Given that the state is already juggling a handful of multibillion-dollar car-centric projects (deep bore tunnel, Columbia River Crossing, 520 Bridge I-405 expansion, etc), it is simply unacceptable to leave biking and walking out of this funding plan.

Blake Trask of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington expressed similar concerns with Publicola:

“The [operations and maintenance money] is great, but we’re hoping it can be improved to include some of those active transportation options.” Currently, he said, “This package does not include anything for safe routes to school, anything for bike and pedestrian safety and mobility, anything for active transportation, period.”

Here’s is Cascade Bicycle Club’s response:

Today, Governor Chris Gregoire proposed a $3.6 billion package of transportation investments funded through a suite of fees. Building on the recommendations of the Connecting Washington task force, the proposed package prioritizes operations and maintenance while providing cities and counties with additional options to raise revenue for maintenance and transit.

“We commend Governor Gregoire for proposing a transportation package that prioritizes preserving and extending the life of our current transportation system,” said Chuck Ayers, Executive Director of Cascade Bicycle Club (Cascade). “We also commend the governor for proposing a revenue source that helps reduce our dependence on oil and for providing local jurisdictions with additional revenue options for supplementary improvements. We strongly agree with the governor that Washington needs to ‘build a transportation system that’s better than the other guys’; but that means we must do more than repair the crumbling relics of the past. Across America and around the world, cities, states and countries are investing in and prioritizing their bicycle, pedestrian and transit networks because they are the key to prosperity in the economy of the future; Washington must do the same.”

“Especially during these challenging economic times, if we are going to spend billions of limited taxpayer dollars on our transportation system, we must do more than tread water and maintain the status quo,” said Craig M. Benjamin, Policy and Government Affairs Manager for Cascade. “We should make smart, cost-effective investments that maximize the movement of people and goods in Washington state. Bicycle, pedestrian and transit projects reduce congestion and our dependence on oil, create more jobs than highway construction, improve public health, provide Washingtonians with more options to safely get where they need to go and prepare our state for the future. We thank Gov. Gregoire for starting this important conversation and look forward to working with the legislature and the governor to balance this package with adequate funding for the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety, Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets & Main Street Highways and Regional Mobility grant programs.”

For more on the plan, see the stories at Seattle Transit Blog and the Seattle Times.

Below is the governor’s transportation plan brief (note that there is literally no mention of walking or biking in this document about the state’s “critical needs”):

Critical Needs More on the plan: connectwa

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41 responses to “Governor’s $3.6 billion transpo plan makes no mention of walking and biking”

  1. Todd

    … and this is what you get with a Democrat in office. Just think what it’d be like with a Republican candidate.

    1. Ken

      Not that I necessarily disagree with your conclusion, but this would be exhibit A in response to the “why do people say biking is elitist?” thread from a few days ago.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        I don’t see how it’s elitist to suggest that at least SOME of the state’s $3.6 billion transportation package should go to helping state residents who walk and bike.

        If anything, it’s elitist to suggest that only people who own and drive cars should get those billions (and some money for transit). The reality is that Seattle’s most dangerous roads for walking and biking happen to be state highways. Seems absurd that they would not include funding to help the state’s walking and biking residents, as well as the state’s driving residents.

      2. Ken

        Tom — the first comment, not the post.

      3. Tom Fucoloro

        Thanks for the clarification.

      4. ODB

        The clarification is not evident to me. Why is it elitist to suggest that a Democrat is more likely to support alternative transportation funding than a Republican? Most Republicans and Democrats would agree that this is a valid distinction between the policies favored by the two parties. Would anyone really find it “elitist” to point out a fact that should be evident to anyone who follows these issues?

    2. Todd

      All I was simply saying is we should be grateful during these hard economic times. In the last year and a half I’ve seen some really, really great improvements around the greater Seattle area. I put in over 4000 miles from Mount Vernon to South Prairie and it’s pretty cool. As for my elitist comment, I responded to that. I think a guy drinking some beer can poke a little fun at his peers. Get over it.

  2. Gary

    While I realize that funding roads via the state means fixing highways not local roads, I can’t help but mention that the roads I ride on could use some repair.

    So while I am against building more lanes on highways, I am for keeping the bridges up, keeping the existing roads repaired and funding bicycling/walking alternatives.

    I also noted that the current funding is paying 90% toward the bond holders. That means we already spent our money. Now if we had borrowed that money from a state bank instead of in the municipal bond market, we would be paying ourselves that interest money. So while we would still need a new funding source for future projects, existing taxes would be paying back to ourselves.

    1. Gary

      I’d also like to mention that the war effort in Afghanistan is costing the USA 8 Billion dollars a month! Now if we took that same 8 Billion and spent it on rapid transit in the home country, I bet we could have the equivalent of phase I and phase II LINK rail system, per month. That’s one per major city every other year….

      Nevermind how far 8 Billion would go spent on bicycling/walking facilities… Gondolas up Queen Anne, Capital Hill….

  3. AiliL

    Note that Bill HB-1018 has been included for review as well. I’ll be looking further into that very shortly.

  4. Mike H

    To look on the positive side of this, road repair can mean some expansion of bicycle and pedestrian facilities. For example, all repaving projects (with some exceptions) require the addition of ADA ramps. Additionally, repaving of a road can lead to the addition of paved shoulders and a chance to restripe the roadway with some extra room for non-motorized users.

    1. Gary

      True enough. A road once repaved will have to meet the guidelines for bicycle/walking. But state funding generally means state roads, which tend to be high traffic highways or at least arterials. That’s Hwy 99, 520.. both of which are not funded through completion even though the state has started on the construction/rebuild of both of them.

      I expect that this bill is just a cover to finish the funding for those and similar projects.

  5. […] $3.6 billion transportation plan makes no mention of any active form of transportation. The Seattle Bike Blog has done a fantastic job compiling some of the initial coverage and reaction to the […]

  6. We’re screwed. After dealing with the Ballard Bridge fiasco the past month, I’ve come to the conclusion that city and state politicians don’t give a crap about cyclists. It’s all talk, and they eat with our money.

    1. Gary

      Not quite. Our votes do count. That’s why it’s extremely important to get as many of your friends to sign up for “bicycle to work month.” Even if they only ride one or two days, they get counted as “bicycle commuters.” These voters could care enough to vote for a politician that at least claims to support cycling. There is nothing like that annual photo of 6,000+ riders showing up for Chilly Hilly to make a politician pay attention.

      Second joining political action groups like Cascade and supporting a board that works for more cycling access as well as the recreational rides also helps.

      Third, write your politician every dang time one of these bills comes up for a committee or floor vote to let them know you are a) paying attention, and b) still care about these issues.

      And yes it seems fruitless but if you realize where we were and look who is now commuting via bicycle (the younger workers) you can see that it’s going to change as old, fat, out of shape people die and stop voting. (Well maybe not in Chicago…) And given our national crisis of obesity, it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. And yes, that is a heartless view of it, and I wish they’d just get off the couch and ride.

      1. Gary

        And if this old guy can change once he realized what he’d done to himself more can as well.


        And there is nothing like a reformed fatso to be obnoxious about getting more facilities for his new sport.

      2. John

        What you’re proposing is a misappropriation of resources.

        Those who you sign up to ride once on “Bike to Work Day” probably try that once and go back to taking a bus or driving. Counting those people as regular bike commuters is dishonest.

      3. Gary

        Nope, it’s not dishonest. It’s first and foremost an attempt to get people out of their cars and “try it.” I am a serious bike commuter but I haven’t been that way all my life. I thought that 17 miles each way would take too much time, that riding on surface streets during traffic hours would be too dangerous. Then I tried it on a “bike to work day” and then I started riding when it was nice… which turned into riding when it was cool but not raining.. then I got caught in a rain storm riding home and realized it wasn’t all that bad either.. then I bought good lights (not as nice as the one’s I have now..) and rode until it got really cold.. and now I only skip days when it’s black ice. But all of this took me years. AND as bicycling infrastructure got better I’ve been able to convince more people to ride in with me, and then they too start down this path.

        Besides someone who rides once a month understands what we are asking for and might ride more often it the infrastructure was better. You have to remember that good roads existed for bicycles before their were automobiles! One needs the other. Same for alternative routes around the freeways which we destroyed our cities with.

        Besides people still vote what they believe in anyway, whether they ride once a month or twice a day.

      4. John

        It is dishonest. There is a distinction between regular users and one time users that “try something out”. It’s more honest to count the regular users for anything, be it riding a bike, driving a car, or taking a bus.

        Resources should be based on actual usage, not some one time blip. It’s not fair to everyone.

  7. flash

    I get that a significant portion ( a small minority, but still a portion) of commuting is done by foot/bus, but how much commerce is actually conducted by bicycle? The state at this point is far more concerned with the flow of goods and services than people. It seems that with limited budgets it would be in keeping with good fiscal sense that these dollars would be aimed at projects that have the largest economic impact.

    1. Gary

      If that were true then the state would not be building the waterfront tunnel. It’s a really poor return on investment for moving freight. An elevated truck only bypass would be much better as it wouldn’t restrict flammable trucks, and it would prevent autos from messing up the freight.

      1. John

        Relieving congestion on I-5 by diverting some traffic onto a secondary arterial is the reason the waterfront tunnel is being built. The longtime residents of this city have had multiple opportunities to build waterfront tunnel alternatives, starting with the R.H. Thompson Expressway, a parallel North South arterial going through Seattle, or the subway system which the Federal Government would have paid for 85% of the cost. None of those alternatives/mandates were ever accepted, so in 2012, we have the tunnel to alleviate some of the traffic. Less cars on I-5 means more freight traffic moving on I-5.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        As someone who lives a few blocks from MLK in the Central District (the proposed alignment of the Thompson Expressway), I can’t even begin to imagine how devastating that project would have been for my neighborhood. I have tried to imagine life with a freeway there, but I simply can’t. We owe an incredible debt to those who fought that project decades ago.

      3. John

        The perspective all depends on whether you would have live along side the expressway or not. As you say, it isn’t necessarily pleasant living next to an expressway. Everyone else would have benefitted from the second North South arterial built parallel to I-5. It would have made the tunnel debate a lot easier to deal with if the second major arterial existed. And, there are far more people benefitting from it than the number of people would have been impacted living beside it.

      4. Gary

        Ah the waterfront tunnel isn’t likely to help freight traffic at all.


        Unless we also add tolls to I-5.

      5. John

        The article cited has nothing to do with moving freight.
        Instead, this is an opinion piece devoid of any facts related to the immediate context (Seattle) and how freight is moved.

        Next, plenty of commuters use SR99 as a downtown Seattle bypass route, an alternative to I-5. Building a tunnel presents a reasonable alternative to the proposal Mayor McGinn wanted, that of a surface street full of traffic lights through Downtown. I could have supported anything, including the Deep Bore Tunnel over that proposal, which disrespects every person who has to commute, be it via bus, vanpool, carpool, or heaven forbid, a car. It just isn’t practical for a lot of people to ride a bike long distances daily to work. That reality never seems to have much traction with the anti-car crowd.

  8. John

    Walking and biking don’t cost anything. You put some shoes on and walk, or hop on a bike and ride.

    Is is truly a surprise to anyone that road tax dollars aren’t being used for something else? I think that’s good governance.

    In Seattle, maintenance of most sidewalks are the property owner’s responsibility. As far as cycling paths are concerned, you can take your chances on the street, or ride in the park.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Yes, it’s so wonderful the every home and destination in the city is connected by parks!

      Actually, that’s sort of the goal of neighborhood greenways. There’s a vision of the future i think we can all get behind. Good idea!

      1. John

        Neighborhood greenways are a “nice to have”. I would rather have well maintained roads and bridges first before going to the “nice to haves”.

        In my “nice to have” list, I would ask for a real rapid transit system for Seattle, but that isn’t going to happen any time in my work lifetime.

        Why not just buy your own lots privately/collectively and put together your own greenways?

      2. Gary

        Ah but if we repair those neighborhood roads, lower the speed limit, we can have the best of both worlds, maintained streets AND green ways. No one here is arguing for not repairing the roads.

      3. John

        The speed limit on residential streets is already really slow. Arterials, by their very definition are major thoroughfares designed to move lots of people safely in a minimal amount of time.

        Again, Greenways are a nice to have, which are lower priority over fixing potholes or that illegible sign, or the broken traffic signal. De facto greenways are easy enough for an enthusiast club to create – how much does it cost to make up signs, go to the city to approve them, and install them yourself? Honestly, there are far more important priorities that benefit the 95% of the population that doesn’t commute via bicycle. Why not work and sponsor these efforts through the likes of Cascade Bicycle Club, and fund these greenways privately?

      4. Tom Fucoloro

        John, greenways are being pushed mostly by neighborhood groups, many of whom don’t even ride bikes. They are about getting around your neighborhood, not necessarily for commuting (though obviously come commuters may find them useful).

        Anyway, your points don’t make much sense. Cities are responsible for their infrastructure, not a club (no matter how big). The day AAA starts building highways, then you’ll have a good point.

  9. @Gary:

    No offense, but the idea of supporting Cascade doesn’t sit well with me. I vote as well, but that group does little to no justice for cyclists, in my opinion. I do support BBTC/Evergreen though.

    Politicians only give a crap if you have a lot of money. Otherwise it’s just lip service with a smile, and most of us buy it.

    1. Gary

      Ok what about Bicycle Alliance?


      And membership is only like $25/year at either of them anyway. If you gave $25 to your favorite politician do you think that he’d really care? Or would you rather be “one of 14,000 Cascade” members?

  10. Another David

    “Washington State’s largest employment and economic center has the second highest bicycle commuting rate in the country (in fact, 15 percent of people who work in downtown Seattle walk or bike there, and only 34 percent of drive alone). ”

    This seems to indicate, to me, that bicycle transportation must be in pretty good shape already, and thus less likely to need state funding and intervention.

    1. Gary

      Obviously you’ve never seen the videos of the bicycling commuting in Copenhagen.


      These things don’t happen without some traffic planning and government expense via taxes.

      1. John

        As I recall, Copenhagen has a very dense population living in close quarters. It’s not hilly. The city was already built as it was before the advent of cars. In other words, cycling is a mode which fits well in the context. There’s also a supporting network of rail and transit far better than what exists in Seattle.

        In Seattle, you’d have to social reengineer the way people live, design communities, and build the kind of density with the transit infrastructure to support that. With the kind of clumsy efforts made by local leaders in that direction (most egregious example: building density without building the real transit infrastructure in place first to support the density, as in West Seattle’s Junction area. Another example: Promoting streetcars instead of Light or Heavy Rail), we’ll never get to anything close to what Danes enjoy.

        I also think most people find social reengineering efforts distasteful, the way people currently try rolling it out currently. Most people that do this are arrogant (I know better than you – do what I say because I know it’s good for you), they don’t respond well to constructive criticism (You think my idea is bad? You’re an idiot!), and they’re just not into a truly open and honest discourse about the topic.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        Well, John, what’s your solution? Keep the status quo? Pollution, dependence on oil, traffic-filled streets and road deaths so common that it hardly makes the news?

        “Social engineering” is a buzz term thrown around to stop someone who has a new idea. Bike commuting is growing at a rate of 20+ percent with no signs of stopping. Whenever the city makes a positive stride toward safer streets, people start biking more.

        If making streets safe for biking and walking is “social engineering,” then designing them under the assumption that only cars will use them was also “social engineering.” If it makes you feel better, then think of a “complete street” as undoing past “social engineering” that forced our city to become car-centric.

        Also, two of the top three biking cities in the US are also two of the hilliest: Seattle and San Francisco. We are living proof that hills are not a critical impediment to being a biking city, or at least a city where “normal” people bike.

        And, finally, a neighborhood greenway will make it easier and safer to access transit stops by proving more safe crossings of busy streets (example: the Wallingford Greenway will make it several blocks easier to get to a 26 stop: http://seattlebikeblog.com/2011/10/03/neighborhood-greenways-and-prop-1-are-about-much-more-than-bicycling/ )

  11. […] the state continues to invest disproportionately in automobile transportation. Infused with data from the recently-released 2012 Alliance for Biking and Walking Benchmarking […]

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