Transportation plan nears final votes

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Traffic outside a Joint Base Lewis-McChord gate in 2010. A series of ongoing projects aim to ease congestion.

An 11.9-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax increase is a key part of a 16-year, $16.1 billion transportation project package. The plan is headed to the Washington Senate and House floors for final votes, likely later today.

Today’s 37.5-cents-per-gallon state gasoline tax will increase by 7 cents in 2015-2016, and by another 4.9 cents in 2016-2017.

The package totals $16.1 billion -- $1 billion greater than the $15.1 billion that the Senate approved last spring. The package includes providing Sound Transit the authority to ask voters for limited property, sales and motor vehicle excise tax hikes, likely totaling $15 billion, to expand light rail. Originally, the GOP wanted to limit that to $11 billion.

But Gov. Jay Inslee agreed to a Republican “poison pill” in the package, which he had opposed for several months. That poison pill would automatically shift $700 million from transit and multimodal transportation to roads if Inslee installs low-carbon fuel standards. To Republicans, the low-carbon fuel standards were a deal breaker. To Inslee, the standards were a treasured part of his anti-pollution efforts, but one he decided had to be sacrificed to reach a broader deal on behalf of transit and other priorities.

The compromise package has roughly $1 billion in multimodal money, the highest ever for bicycling, pedestrian safety and the like in a Washington legislative transportation projects package.

The package calls for completing work on several major state transportation projects, including the state Route 520 overhaul, upgrading I-405, finishing work on state routes 509 and 167, tackling I-5 congestion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and continuing work on a new I-395 corridor through Spokane.

House and Senate Democratic and Republican negotiators released a joint statement early this afternoon:

“These new investments will grow our economy and create jobs: as many as 100,000 over 16 years. It will help unclog congested roadways and provide transportation choices. It will allow communities to make transportation decisions locally. And it will institute reforms to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively. No one got everything they wanted in this deal; that is the nature of compromise. But there is something for everyone to hang their hat on.”


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8