Dozens of people testified before the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday about a $12.3 billion transportation proposal that would raise gas taxes by 11.5 cents to pay for major road projects across the state.
Committee co-chair Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, said the state can no longer ignore maintenance of its roads, and must finish the projects it has started. “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it and reap the benefits,” he said.
Several city officials urged legislators to quickly approve the proposal so the state can begin working on a list of projects that range from widening Interstate 5 at Joint Base Lewis McChord to finishing the State Route 520 floating bridge.
“My biggest fear is that you will do nothing,” said Mia Gregerson, the deputy mayor of SeaTac.
“We deserve this package in Washington state,” she said.
Lakewood mayor Don Anderson said the 60-year-old design of Interstate 5 is inadequate for today’s traffic. “I strongly urge you adopt a transportation package that invests in the state’s primary north-south route,” he said.
Under the proposal, the state’s current gas tax of 37.5 cents a gallon would go up in increments to 49 cents a gallon by 2016.
Snohomish mayor Karen Guzak urged the Legislature to go even further, saying the price of gas frequently changes by 20 cents up or down. “You would do better to ask for more money” to ensure people can spend more time with their families, she said, and to reduce the state’s carbon footprint.
Several people criticized the package for not focusing enough on transit, bicycle and pedestrian programs.
Jeff Hamm of the Washington State Transit Association said the transportation package provides “very little real benefit” for bus and transit systems.
“We believe by failing to adequately fund transit this proposal misses the mark,” Hamm said.
Lindsay Hovind of the American Heart Association said the proposal “underinvests” in bike lanes, trails and walkways that encourage people to get outside. “Moving is critical to health,” she said.
The proposal was introduced by the mostly Republican Senate Majority Coalition Caucus. Transportation leaders from the House and Senate say they continue to work on a deal that all parties can agree on.
“We are still in negotiations,” said committee co-chair Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, at the close of Thursday’s meeting.
Gov. Jay Inslee previously said he would call another special session to approve a transportation package if it has enough bipartisan votes in the Legislature to pass.
TVW taped Thursday’s hearing — watch it here.