Washington state’s clogged transportation network caught a break in 2020, when COVID-19 slashed driving by 15% and erased 60% of transit ridership, giving public officials a year to punt on solutions.
Now that a new year has arrived, state legislators will feel new urgency to tackle gridlock, underfunded roads and bridges and the question of whether to pass a massive mobility plan.
Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, says he’ll take a hiatus from National Guard deployment so he can make a third attempt at brokering a multibillion dollar Forward Washington plan. Without a statewide package, Hobbs will lose another year in his quest to replace the jammed Highway 2 westbound trestle, which connects his constituents to Everett.
Gov. Jay Inslee, burned by voters‘ and lawmakers’ rejection of carbon pricing, will try again to jump-start his climate agenda by proposing $318 million for ferry electrification along with low-carbon fuel standards, $20 million for pedestrian, bike and school-zone improvements and $3.25 million to plan future high-speed rail.
“To meet our greenhouse-gas reduction targets, we must aggressively diversify our transportation infrastructure,” Inslee said. “Electrifying our vehicles, vessels and buses is one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon pollution.”
The state is far behind its target of reducing carbon emissions 25% by 2035.
On the minority side, Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, supports minimal or zero new taxes in 2021 while citizens are still hurting from COVID-related business restrictions. Lawmakers should limit their ambitions to maintenance and projects already approved, he said.
Expect a tug of war over whether carbon taxes should be funneled to transit as opposed to plain gasoline taxes which the state constitution’s 18th Amendment reserves for roads.
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