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WA transpo package failure kills CRC highway project and bike/walk funding, hangs Metro out to dry

Headline and image at Bike Portland
Headline and image at Bike Portland

Though the State House of Representatives was able to pass a $10 billion transportation package late last week, the Senate decided to adjourn without considering the bill.

The headlines in Portland are all about the CRC. The Washington legislature’s failure to approve funding for the massive Columbia River Crossing I-5 expansion between Vancouver, Wash. and Portland has killed that project after many years of fighting. This is a big moment for Portland’s anti-highway expansion activists.

The Oregon legislature had approved funding to move the project forward, but that funding was dependent on a Washington funding package. Without Washington’s funds, governors in both states announced over the weekend that the project is being shut down.

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But here in Washington, the mood is more grim. Frustratingly, law changes that would have allowed local governments more funding options for transit service went down in flames with the same bill. So did a proposed $323 million for biking, walking, complete streets and Safe Routes to School.

King County Metro now faces huge cuts in service, prompting the following headline on Slog: State Senate Blocks Vote on Transportation Funding Package, Tells King County Metro Bus Riders to Go Fuck Themselves

For state biking and walking groups, there was definitely support for the package. But that support was hardly unanimous. $300+ million in a $10 billion package was just not enough sugar to help the bill go down for some.

What’s insanely frustrating, however, is that the legislature could not even pass a law that would allow local communities to save their own transit service. It makes some sense for state spending on road repair, highway expansions, transit, and biking and walking projects to go down together in the same bill. That’s how transportation packages work. But it makes no sense that a bill giving local communities the option to pay for transit on their own would go down with it. If King County residents want to tax themselves to prevent cuts to the transit service they need, what’s it to the state legislature?

Or, again, to put it in the Stranger’s words:

This is, frankly, totally fucking outrageous. King County did everything the state asked us to do. We found savings, we streamlined service, we negotiated concessions with unions, and we raised fares four years straight. When the state imposed an insulting two-thirds supermajority requirement for passing a two-year car tab in order to get us through until a permanent funding solution could be found, we even managed the bipartisan support to do that. Then King County executive Dow Constantine got together with the mayors of the cities, and together developed a funding solution that would work for everyone. We didn’t ask for money. No, together, the cities and the county went to Olympia with a simple request: Allow us to levy a 1.5 percent local MVET in order to fund bus service and road maintenance.

And the state senate just told us to fuck off.


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13 responses to “WA transpo package failure kills CRC highway project and bike/walk funding, hangs Metro out to dry”

  1. Peri Hartman

    A bill allowing jurisdictions to create transportation levies will need to go through congress without all of the other political controversies attached. I would think that would have a much better chance of passing. Maybe time for an initiative?

    1. Leif Espelund

      You strongly overestimate the conservative political mindset. They believe government should stay out of peoples lives, even if the people disagree. They believe they are doing us a big favor by not allowing us to tax ourselves.

      1. Peri Hartman

        Well, I’m sure you’re right. But I reporting I read seemed to focus on the Columbia River crossing. Had that not been part of the bill, I think it would have passed. Repubs where adamantly against a proposal which included light rail over the river.

        (On an aside, maybe they were right, in a round about way. A tunnel or other separate light rail crossing without a drawspan might be better.)

  2. merlin

    So now what? Can we ask the Mayoral candidates what they plan to do about this? McGinn has already pledged some city money to bolster transit within Seattle, but Seattle can’t save all of Metro. Does King County start a giant kickstarter campaign to fund sensible transportation?

  3. Todd

    Dontcha love government? It works so well.

  4. Taylor

    Government only works this well when people let it. There are counties where it works much better, Germany, Iceland and anywhere in Scandinavia. Granted having a more homogeneous culture for a point of reference helps.

    1. I hear this “homogeneous culture” thing all the time, and I’m not really convinced of it. What are the vast cultural differences between the ideologically opposed members of our legislature, exactly?

  5. Gary

    Well that bridge project deserved to die. As for the Metro funding, it was too bad that it was tied to that other bill. As for tears for the loss of a measly 323Million, yes it’s real money but it’s no where near enough for the needed bicycle infustructure. Maybe when we get those two traitorous Democrats out of office we can have a more people oriented transit budget next year.

    1. Gary

      While cutting Metro’s budget isn’t my idea of a good time for KC riders, it does allow Metro to consolate, fix, adjust, move bus routes that are not optimal. In good budget times, that’s impossible to do. So a once in a while budget crisis is necessary to fix things that “everybody” (meaning transit planners, and wonks) know needs to be fixed but because every change affects someone, can’t be done.

      Lets hope that those adjustments get made, then the budget comes back to fix the crowded routes.

  6. As mayor, I will pressure Kevin Desmond to eliminate the ugly overtime abuse he has cultivated at METRO that is pissing off the fiscally responsible voters and candidates such as myself. Additionally, the sexist bandwidth he spouts from that says the only good jobs are fulltime jobs is complete BS. He’s robbing at least 500 people of a great job with great benefits. The whole KC Council is complicit. Meanwhile the drivers don’t get potty breaks. That’s illegal. I call BS on that as well.

  7. […] It looks like Rodney Tom has fucked over transit in King County so badly, that he might as well put his dick in the tailpipe of a Metro bus at this […]

  8. […] Safe Routes to School program, which focuses road safety investments near Washington schools. While the ill-fated package was controversial, the data shows that investing in Safe Routes to School is remarkably and undeniably […]

  9. […] on the table at the moment, but the meetings could influence a package to replace the one that failed earlier this year. That package was flawed and included funding for the controversial Columbia River Crossing, which […]

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