Seattle area leaders gathered Friday to urge state lawmakers to pass the transportation budget before the end of the legislative session.
King County Executive Dow Constantine said a new transportation budget is long overdue. He added that the state’s transit health and economic vitality depends on it.
Without additional funding, for example, King County Metro has said it might have to cut nearly a third of its routes. “There are consequences to inaction," Constantine said. "The Metro bus cuts are going be real, those are going to significantly impact people, and businesses, and traffic.”
A lack of funding would also affect the state's roadways. “Roads will continue to degrade in the unincorporated county and in all 39 of our cities," he said. "And freight will continue to be stuck on our roadways, making us less competitive with other parts of the world.”
The transportation package, House Bill 1954, includes more than $10 billion for state road projects. Some of those projects include a new bridge to connect Vancouver to Portland, Snoqualmie Pass maintenance, and repairs on State Route 167. It also includes a 10-and-a-half-cent gas tax increase, 6 percent of which will take effect at the beginning of August.
Lawmakers on the east side of the state aren’t convinced it’s a solid plan. Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) said that what’s good for downtown Seattle isn’t good for his district. He predicted higher gas prices would drive businesses out of Washington and into Idaho.
The transportation budget passed in the state house on Thursday. It’s now up for a vote in the state senate.