Transportation Budget bill signing

May 16, 2011

Transportation Budget
May 16, 2011
Remarks as prepared

Good morning, and thank you for coming. With me today are the chairs and ranking minority members of the Senate and House transportation committees, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen and Rep. Judy Clibborn, and Sen. Curtis King and Rep. Mike Armstrong

One of the most important economic investments we make is building an efficient transportation system.

With an eye to the future, our state adopted a long-term approach to improving our roads and transportation infrastructure with the passage of the 2003 Nickel and 2005 Transportation Partnership Act packages.

The message sent by approving those revenue measures was clear: transportation is important to us all, and we want it to work safely and efficiently.

I’m proud to say we’re delivering across Washington.

More than 92 percent of all of the projects funded by those revenue packages will be under contract or completed by the end of the next biennium.
So far, we’ve completed 300 promised projects, more than 90 percent on time, and more than 90 percent on – or under – budget.

Several of the largest infrastructure projects in our history are becoming a reality:

State Route 520 has been a ‘work in progress’ since planning began 14 years ago. That corridor is one of the most important links between the state’s two largest job centers — Seattle and Bellevue.

Today the eastside transit and HOV project is in construction, and we are building the pontoons for a successor bridge.

This new bridge will greatly improve the experience of transit and carpool users, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians.

The replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct is moving ahead. For more than ten years we’ve known the current viaduct is vulnerable in an earthquake.

Today, after a decade of discussion and debate, construction on the southern section is underway and within budget.

With this budget we’re moving more people more efficiently:

• This budget funds the next stages of a network of HOV lanes from Tacoma to Everett.

• In Tacoma, we’re opening the westbound Nalley Valley ramps from I-5 this year, and beginning construction on the eastbound lanes.

• In Spokane, we will have completed nearly half of the length of the improvements to the North-Spokane corridor by the end of 11-13 biennium.

• In Monroe, we’ve improved what was once known as the SR 522 “killer highway.” We’re continuing that work.

• In Wenatchee, we are improving mobility across the George Sellar Bridge, widening the bridge to five lanes and reducing congestion.

During the next two years, we will put almost 30,000 people to work in construction-related jobs across the state. Some of our best-known employers have fewer people on the payroll in our state than that.

With $5.6 billion of investments, over 800 construction projects will preserve, make safer, and improve our state highways, local roads, rail and ferry system.

We’ve built the projects agreed to, and are enjoying the benefits – safer roads, faster travel times and new ferry vessels.

By delivering on our promises and getting things done, we are nearing completion of the nearly $16 billion in capital investments supported by the 2003 and 2005 gas tax increases.

Project construction will wind down over the next 4 years, dropping from $5.6 billion to $1.9 billion.

After the 2013-15 biennium, 90 percent of the gas tax revenue included in our construction packages will go to debt service on the 421 projects funded.

No maintenance or preservation funds were provided for roads created through these projects. Without that funding, deterioration will set in, the pavement will crumble and its condition will decline dramatically.

At the same time, the needs of a growing population and a recovering economy will continue to put strains on our roads, rails and bridges.

There are major projects that we know must be built.

The Columbia River Crossing between Vancouver and Portland includes the last lift bridge and the last stoplight on I-5.

We have come to a bi-state agreement on a new bridge type – soon we must fund construction.

We know we need to make improvements to US 12 near Walla Walla, to I-82 near Yakima, and to I-5 near Joint Base Lewis-McChord – which is now the state’s third-largest employer.

Most notably, our aging ferry system is at risk – something I have been concerned about for years.
More than a decade ago I-695 eliminated the largest source of funds for the system’s capital needs – that includes preservation.

Since then, we’ve kept the system going with other appropriations. Since 2000 we’ve transferred nearly $800 million to ferries from other transportation accounts. There’s no more money left to transfer.

When we began this session, I warned the Legislature that we can’t continue to Band-Aid the nation’s largest ferry system. We must address the $1 billion shortfall we expect over the next decade.

Those are the funds needed to run, repair and replace aging boats and terminals. Without a stable source of funding, we face the loss of hundreds of sailings a day.

I proposed a regional ferry district that would have stabilized the system – and I said if this isn’t the solution, then suggest another.

While we have sustained our ferry system in this budget, it’s another Band-Aid. I’m disappointed further progress was not made.
This must be addressed, and I again ask our legislators to identify a long-term solution for our ferry funding system.

Across the state, there is more to do. Without further investment, we risk losing our vital infrastructure, bringing our progress to a standstill.

That’s why I am forming a transportation advisory group and tasking its members with developing a 10-year investment and funding strategy for the state’s transportation system.

I have asked Senators Haugen and King and Representatives Clibborn and Armstrong to join this group along with other transportation leaders.

I also thank the Transportation Partnership, a group of stakeholders, who have worked hard to raise awareness of the need to support transportation.

Working closely with our regional planning organizations, communities, businesses, labor, and other transportation stakeholders, we will identify and prioritize those investments that will ensure our transportation system remains strong and builds our economic future.

The group’s recommendations will be ready for presentation to the Legislature and public in 2012.

Ultimately, a new package outlining projects and revenue may be presented to the public next year.

We have to be ready on day one of the next regular session, to move forward and lay out a plan. Our economy and the safety our communities depend on our willingness to invest in our state transportation infrastructure.

Together, we can build a foundation for Washington’s future.

Thank you.