Washington State’s Faustian Bargain to Fund Transit

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and state legislators have agreed to enable funding for a major Seattle transit expansion, but the deal comes with drawbacks.

The Sound Transit 3 package would fund a $15 billion light rail expansion. Photo: Wikimedia
The Sound Transit 3 package would fund a $15 billion light rail expansion. Photo: Wikimedia

If approved, the state would fund a $15 billion package of transportation projects and, separately, authorize Sound Transit to raise $15 billion to expand light rail via regional taxes.

Martin H. Duke at Seattle Transit Blog reports that, as a concession to Republican lawmakers, Inslee accepted a “poison pill” that would prevent the state from adopting low-carbon fuel standards.

In addition, Duke says the agreement would fund road-building projects that have support from Republicans and Democrats.

[T]he package doesn’t adequately fund highway maintenance and actually makes the problem worse by adding many more decaying lane-miles on SR 520, I-405, SR 167, and in North Spokane. Highway expansion is a futile response to congestion, encourages environmentally damaging driving, and literally destroys neighborhoods. About the only good thing to say about it is that it’s funded by gas taxes, which in a small way offsets a little of the environmental carnage.

The poison pill and the highway funding have turned off some environmental orgs, according to Duke, and they’re lobbying lawmakers to reject the deal.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports on potential cuts to Metro service, and Mobilizing the Region says Governor Chris Christie and state lawmakers have officially doomed New Jersey transit users to fare hikes and service cuts.

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