Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a 16-year Move Ahead Washington transportation package that legislators approved this session, focused on cleaner, more efficient transportation options.
“Transportation is our state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. There is no way to talk about climate change without talking about transportation,” says Inslee. “This package will move us away from the transportation system our grand-parents imagined and towards the transportation system our grand-children dream of.”
A key component to the new package is the state’s new cap-and-invest program, created after the passage of Inslee’s Climate Commitment Act last year. Inslee first introduced such a policy to the legislature in 2014. Washington’s transportation spending is largely funded by the state’s gas tax and state vehicle license fees. The state constitution dictates these revenues can only be spent on highways and highway-related programs. Cap-and-invest revenue, however, is specifically directed to non-highway projects and programs that reduce climate pollution. The policy also emphasizes equity. At least 35% of funds must go towards serving overburdened and marginalized communities.
“Thanks to the Climate Commitment Act passed last year, our cap-and-invest program is providing billions of dollars that we can use to equitably turn the cost of carbon pollution into low- and no-carbon transportation options,” Inslee adds. “This is a plan that finally allows us to build for our future.”
Sen. Marko Liias and Rep. Jake Fey chair the legislature’s transportation committees and led negotiations for Move Ahead Washington. They share the governor’s vision of equitably promoting electrification and significantly expanding options for transit, walking and cycling. Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon sponsored last year’s Climate Commitment Act legislation.
The Move Ahead Washington package focuses an increased share of funding on maintenance and preservation of existing roads and bridges than prior packages, and includes major projects such as the replacement of the I-5 bridge across the Columbia River. But the clear distinction is how it directs a significant share of investments towards transit, safe bike and pedestrian facilities, electrification of ferries and cars, and other non-highway programs.
The largest share of Move Ahead Washington goes towards climate and clean transportation. The package includes funding for four new hybrid-electric ferries, tens of thousands of new EV charging stations, 25 transit electrification projects across the state, and free fares for passengers 18 and younger on all public transportation.
The package also includes a significant infusion of funding for removing hundreds of fish passage barriers along state highways that block approximately 650 miles of habitat for salmon and steelhead. This work is important to meeting the state’s salmon recovery commitment to Tribes.
Among the bills Inslee signed are several that support the continued growth of Washington state’s clean energy sector. Inslee and legislators advanced policies that promote strong labor standards, protections for overburdened communities, and Tribal rights.
Inslee’s request legislation improves the state’s one-stop siting process for clean energy. This bill modernizes the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council so it can better support clean energy projects, with up front work and community engagement to site the right project, in the right location, with a more predictable timeline.
In addition, legislators approved the governor’s budget office’s request for expanded tax incentives for clean tech manufacturing, energy storage projects and additional clean energy sources tied to the strong labor standards first developed under the state’s 100% clean electricity law. The bill will incentivize developers to include high labor standards and hire union workers.