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Comparing the Move Ahead WA Package to Snotrac’s Values & Principles

In December, Snotrac published a statement on our values and principles for state transportation funding. Here's how the Move Ahead Washington Package measures up.

Safety

What we said: "The paramount obligation is to ensure the safety of all people using our streets and roads. Roadways can be made inherently safe, even accounting for human error, through design and engineering."


What's in the package: There's a new requirement for all projects over $500,000 to incorporate the principles of "complete streets" and have speed limits adjusted using safe systems approach, with a goal of eliminating traffic fatalities.


There are also significant investments in grant programs that will fund safety projects: $160 million per biennium for active transportation. The previous state transportation package, Connecting Washington, had just $28 million per biennium. The Move Ahead Washington funding would be additive to existing funding from Connecting Washington and other sources, so the overall pool of funds for active transportation will be even larger.

Grant Program

Amounts in millions,

16-year totals

Safe Routes to School

$290

School Based Bike Program

$216

Bike/Ped Grant Program

$278

Bike/Ped Project List

$293

Complete Streets (TIB)

$146

Connecting Communities

$50

Climate

What we said: "In Washington State, transportation is the top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation investments must reduce climate pollution, not increase it."


What's in the package:

All funding for active transportation and transit comes from the Climate Commitment Act, previously adopted in the 2021 legislative session. It’s been a presumption that these funds $5.4 billion over 16 years) would always be used for programs and projects that would help to address climate change. In other words, even if the legislature didn't pass the Move Ahead Washington Package, the Climate Commitment Act would still fund good projects for the climate and environment, and could fund all the programs outlined in the package. So, it’s not quite fair to provide a direct apples-to-apples comparison of the Move Ahead Washington Package with that of previous packages.


The remaining $11.4 billion of the package is from other sources, most of which the package would tie to the 18th Amendment restriction so the funds could only be spent on highways. Of this amount, $4 billion is for line-itemed new highway projects. No estimate has been made on how much additional greenhouse gas emissions these projects might create as a result of induced increased vehicle miles travelled.


While all projects will need to follow a complete streets approach, there are no requirements for the highway capacity projects to be planned/designed following WSDOT’s practical solutions approach or to meet state/regional goals, such as reducing vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, even if alternative solutions such as congestion pricing, increased transit service, or commute trip reduction practices could better achieve a project’s desired outcomes, those approaches are not likely to be considered. In addition, even if a project will worsen the metrics for achieving the state’s and region’s goals, whether it’s climate change or traffic congestion, the project is likely to be built anyways.


On a brighter note, the Move Ahead Washington Package would ensure the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) would be implemented. The LCFS creates a unique market by which fuel credits are bought and sold to encourage the adoption of vehicles powered by electricity and fuels with lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. The LCFS had been adopted by the legislature in 2021, but is currently subject to a lawsuit. The package would moot the litigation.


Mobility Justice

What we said: "Past transportation decisions negatively impacted people of color, older adults, youth, disabled people, and low income individuals. Transportation projects need to redress these injustices by investing in transportation and land use patterns that enable social mobility."


What's in the package:

In addition to significant investments in walking, biking, and transit, the Move Ahead Washington Package also:

  • Creates an Environmental Justice Council to provide recommendations in the development and implementation of climate programs, including the transit and active transportation spending. However, these environmental justice requirements will not apply to the highway projects.

  • Incentivizes every transit system in Washington to go fare-free for riders under 18, including transit, passenger rail, and ferries.

  • Provides significant new funding for special needs transportation and a new tribal transit grant program.

Program

Existing funding from Connecting Washington

Additive funding in Move Ahead Washington

Special Needs Transit Grants

$33.3

$70

Tribal Transit Grants

0

$13.3

Transit Coordination Grants

0

$1.7

* All amounts shown as the average per biennium, in millions


Rural Communities

What we said: "While future growth needs to be prioritized for transit-strong communities, the older adults, people with disabilities, low income individuals, tribal members, and agricultural and resource industry workers in rural areas must still have the ability to get to school, work, shops, and medical appointments."


What's in the package:

There is a historic level of funding for Special Needs Transit Grants and a new Tribal Transit Grants program. However, no additional funding was provided for the Rural Mobility Grant Program. The existing Rural Mobility Grant Program, to which the previous Connecting WA package provides $18.3 million per biennium, and will still continue.


Homage Senior Services, Lincoln Hill Retirement Community, and the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe received funding through the Rural Mobility Grant Program this past funding cycle.


Align Investments to State & Regional Goals

What we said: "State transportation funding should implement the state’s goals for addressing climate change, eliminating traffic fatalities, increasing equity, improving public health, and other priorities as set by state and regional goals and policies for transportation, growth management, and climate goals."


What's in the package:

While all projects over $500,000 must comply with complete streets principles, including eliminating traffic fatalities, only the projects funded by the Climate Commitment Act must comply with the package's environmental justice requirements. Highway projects would not need to comply with the environmental justice requirements.


In addition, there are no requirements for the highway capacity projects to be planned/designed following WSDOT’s practical solutions approach or to meet state/regional goals, such as reducing vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, even if alternative solutions such as congestion pricing, increased transit service, or commute trip reduction practices could better achieve a project’s desired outcomes, those approaches are not likely to be considered. Even if a project will worsen the metrics for achieving the state’s and region’s goals, whether it’s climate change or traffic congestion, the project is likely to be built anyways.


Fix It First

What we said: "Before building more highway lanes, the state needs to first fix its roads and bridges."


What's in the package:

According to WSDOT, there is an annual funding gap for maintenance and preservation of more than $700 million (as of 2019). The package dedicates an average of $187.5 million per year toward maintenance and preservation ($3 billion total), which means that the annual gap will be closed by less than 27%.


In addition, currently, 6.4% of the state’s 2,564 bridges are considered in “poor” condition (the percentage is weighted by bridge deck area), and 58.9% are considered to be in “fair” condition, necessitating maintenance. It's unlikely that the $187.5 million per year will be sufficient to fix all these bridges.


By comparison to the $3 billion for maintenance, there is $4 billion dedicated to new highway projects. This new infrastructure will also need to be maintained.


Fully Fund Transit, Walk, Bike, and ADA Infrastructure

What we said: "The state should fully fund transit capital needs, ADA transition plans, and citywide bikeway and pedestrian networks to be completed within 10 years."


What's in the package:

The provided funding is substantial, but will not likely come close to “fully funding” the state’s transit, walk, bike and ADA infrastructure needs.


For example, in 2014 the City of Seattle estimated that the full build out of its 30-year bicycle master plan would cost $550 million, which is double the amount allocated by the package to the Bike/Ped Grant Program.


At Snotrac, we are big fans of the Complete Streets Program that is administered by the state Transportation Improvement Board. The package dedicates $146 million over 16 years to the program, which is 38% more than in Connecting Washington (and the $146 million would be additive to the previous funding). But even with the increase, it’s probable that most cities that apply for Complete Streets grant funding will continue to not receive funding.


Rethink Funding


AUTO v. State

What we said: "For any new transportation funding, the legislature should preserve flexibility in expending the funds on non-highway projects, as provided by the state supreme court in Auto. United Trades Org. v. State (2012)."


What's in the package:

The legislation continues to unnecessarily statutorily lock-in motor-related fees to the State Motor Vehicle Fund that is featured in the state constitution’s 18th amendment.


Package Walk/Bike/ADA Projects

What we said: "Cities and counties should be encouraged to package citywide and neighborhood-wide networks of walking, biking, and ADA infrastructure into single projects that can be funded in state transportation packages and in state grant programs."


What's in the package:

The legislation does not specifically call for cities to rethink how they plan, package, and apply for funding for walking, biking, and ADA infrastructure. The larger funding opportunities might encourage some cities to do so, however.

Although this isn't in the package, WSDOT's proposal to spend the state portion of Seattle's bus lane and block-the-box camera revenue on capacity-building in other cities for planning bicycle, pedestrian, complete streets projects may encourage cities to package multiple small projects into larger projects.

The Move Ahead Washington package expands the ability for more jurisdictions to implement traffic cameras and continues the 50/50 local/state split, so WSDOT’s approach to spending its portion of the traffic camera revenue could make significant headway on this idea.


End the practice of line iteming projects

What we said: "To ensure consistency with state transportation, growth management, and climate goals, the state legislature move away from line-iteming projects in transportation packages and toward giving more discretion to WSDOT and PSRC to evaluate projects and allocate funding."


What's in the package:

100% of the highway capacity funding is programmed through explicit line-item lists.

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