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How the Senate transportation budget makes use of federal funds

The Senate passes their 2021-23 Transportation Budget, sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs (D – Lake Stevens) in a unanimous vote Monday. The budget makes use of over $1 billion in federal dollars from the recently passed American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act passed by Congress in December.

This budget only keeps the lights on, and Washingtonians expect and need more than a transportation budget that merely keeps the lights on,” said Hobbs.

Of the roughly $1 billion included in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) that will backfill shortfalls, $600 million will be aimed at making up revenue losses caused by the pandemic. As for the fish culverts that Washington is under a federal court order to repair, $400 million in ARP funds will be set aside for that purpose, as well as, $142.9 million from the December COVID relief package. 

Staff for the Senate Democratic Caucus say that budget writers are still waiting for the US Department of the Treasury to issue guidance on whether investments in water infrastructure include spending on fish culverts.

The budget also will also direct $5.5 million in federal funds to the new Forward Drive road usage charge (RUC) project overseen by the Transportation Commission. The project will research how changing driving habits might impact a RUC program, and will perform an equity analysis. 

Sen. Steve Hobbs, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said that if the Legislature is “to really address the multitude of needs that exist in communities throughout Washington, a transportation revenue package must be passed.”

The best thing about this transportation budget is how well it reflects the urgent need for infrastructure investments,” Hobbs said. “One-time federal money only postpones the need. Delaying action on infrastructure investments makes them more expensive.

On top of investments via federal funds, the budget also includes $1 million in additional funding for the Pre-Apprenticeship & Supportive Services (PASS) grant program to make the construction trades more accessible to people from underrepresented communities.

A study looking into the Department of Transportation’s role in broadband service expansion efforts will receive $200,000 and another $250,000 will be used to study new options for payment of vehicle fees and taxes, including spreading out the cost with monthly or quarterly payment options.

The study, Democrats say, must also provide options to reduce impacts on communities of color, low-income households, vulnerable populations, and displaced communities.

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