Gov. Jay Inslee today announced a comprehensive and innovative proposal to address Washington’s most-pressing transportation needs, including fixing ailing bridges, patching crumbling roads, cleaning our air and water and completing major regional projects on time and within budget.
The plan to be submitted to the 2015 Legislature will create 50,000 jobs across the state.
It will be financed through bonding, fees and a proposed carbon charge on industrial polluters. It would not require an increase in the state gas tax. Inslee said the $12 billion investment embraces efficiency and accountability “that will deliver results that the public can trust.”
Inslee made the announcement at the brand-new transit center atop the 520 floating bridge.
“This is a plan that will keep us safe on the roads, reduce traffic, create jobs and help clean our air and water,” said Inslee, who was joined by elected leaders and transportation advocates. “This is how we can build a transportation system to move all of Washington state forward.”
Inslee stressed that he is open to hearing what other plans lawmakers may have for how best to make progress on a comprehensive transportation package, but said it is unfinished business in Olympia.
“We simply need to get it done,” Inslee said. “Our goal cannot be to get all of what we each might want, but instead to get what the state needs.”
The plan addresses safety, a backlog of maintenance needs, traffic congestion relief, accountability and reform in the Washington State Department of Transportation, clean transportation options and a major boost to the state’s economy.
Without new investment in the state’s aging transportation system, Washington faces a 52 percent decrease in the maintenance budget, and 71 additional bridges will become structurally deficient.
The governor’s plan fully addresses this backlog and other critical safety needs across the state, including:
- Complete seismic repairs or replacement of at-risk structures such as the SR 520 floating bridge and the Mukilteo and Colman ferry terminals.
- Improve safety on aging bridges through an improved bridge-height alert system.
- Save lives on the road through additional rumble strips, guardrails, illumination and improved signals.
- Provide early detection of landslide threats through advanced LiDAR imagery and risk analysis.
- Fully fund the Washington State Patrol.
Jobs and traffic relief
The governor’s transportation plan is an essential step in the state’s economic recovery. Besides creating new jobs, it will improve our transportation infrastructure, allowing for a smoother flow of people and goods.
The $5.9 billion in new construction and statewide economic development would create 50,000 family-wage jobs over the 12-year life of the plan.
Completing projects that reduce traffic congestion will cut commute times so workers can spend more time with their families. The plan would also:
- Complete SR 167 and SR 509 to alleviate congestion and improve the competitiveness of the ports of Tacoma and Seattle.
- Fix traffic chokepoints on I-405 and on I-5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
- Complete I-90 Snoqualmie Pass safety and corridor improvements.
- Extend the North-South highway in Spokane from Francis to Trent avenues.
- Complete Snohomish County freight improvement projects.
- Fund a fourth ferry vessel.
- Freeze ferry fares and fully fund ferry operating shortfalls.
The governor’s plan offers transportation choices that can help clean our air and water, tackle climate change and improve the health of Washingtonians. The plan includes:
- Electric vehicle and alternative fuel incentives and infrastructure such as charging stations.
- Environmentally sound stormwater and culvert projects.
- Authorization for Sound Transit to seek voter-approved funding for expansion of light rail.
- Funding for the use of cleaner natural gas instead of diesel in ferries.
- Additional bicycle, pedestrian and transit projects as well as demand management and commute trip reduction programs.
Accountability and reform
WSDOT has one of the highest records of on-time performance for project completion in the country. Currently, 85 percent of projects are delivered on time and 92 percent are within budget.
But the governor said today that more should be done.
“I believe we must ensure these performance trends continue upward, and an unprecedented level of checks and balances should be attached to new transportation dollars,” he said. “We will show the public that dollars are spent wisely and results are delivered on-time and on-budget.”
The plan also:
- Implements practical design and least-cost planning to reduce project time and costs.
- Advances quality assurance and Lean management training that will help empower employees at all levels of the organization to spot, report and quickly solve issues before they become bigger problems.
- Facilitates permitting to support timely project completion.
- Requires performance dashboards to track revenues and the delivery of improvements from start to finish — with results reported to taxpayers.
Inslee said the proposed financing for the plan is a major shift in transportation funding.
Rather than raise the gas tax on all motorists, the plan would be funded largely through fees and bonding as well as on a new carbon pollution charge. Sources of major transportation-related pollution, such as the oil and gas industry, will pay a charge for every ton of carbon they emit into the air.
The revenue raised through the carbon pollution charge, about $4.8 billion over 12 years, would be the equivalent of the amount of revenue generated by a 12-cent gas tax increase.
Inslee will unveil additional details of his plan to fight carbon pollution Wednesday in Seattle. He said today that revenue generated by the pollution charge will be invested in clean transportation choices, programs that promote cleaner air and water, and for the safety and maintenance of the transportation system.
“It’s transportation pollution paying for transportation choices,” Inslee said.