The Senate on Friday unanimously passed what budget writers call a “bare bones” transportation spending package that includes $8.7 billion to fund existing projects around the state.
The vote comes a day after a compromise was reached on the Interstate 5 bridge bridge project over the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver. Senate Republicans have voiced concerns over the project – specifically the proposed height of the bridge and a built-in light rail component.
The agreement calls for withholding about $82 million for the project in the budget until the U.S. Coast Guard decides whether to issue an important project permit. The Coast Guard, which has expressed concern over the bridge’s height, is expected to make a decision on the permit in September. The deal also calls for an audit of the Columbia River Crossing project by the state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.
Later Friday, the House Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on a revenue package that would raise the state’s gas tax by 10 cents a gallon to fund new projects, including $450 million for the CRC. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently said the state would risk losing $850 million in federal dollars if the legislature doesn’t allocate the money. Oregon lawmakers have already agreed to appropriate $450 million for the project.
One late amendment was added to the budget calling for two full time employees to support the ignition interlock program at the Washington State Patrol. It’s part of an effort by lawmakers to crack down on drunken drivers after two recent DUI crashes killed three people in the Seattle area.
While the budget does not fund any new projects, it does maintain funding for a tunnel to replace Seattle’s Alaska Way Viaduct and current service levels for the state’s ferry system.
“Bare bones. No new revenue, no new projects, however this keeps us moving forward,” said Sen. Tracy Eide (D-Federal Way).
Read the full budget here.