Yesterday Democrats in the Washington State Legislature introduced Move Ahead WA, a new 16-year transportation package for Washington State. The 115-page document includes detailed direction on a range of transportation issues from fuel suppliers to driving records and everything in between.
We’re incredibly excited about this first version of the package, and wanted to take a minute to point out 12 highlights of the package when it comes to investments in transit and infrastructure for safer biking, rolling, and walking.
- Historic investments in transit and active transportation. This watershed and transformative package will invest more than $4 billion dollars in transit and active transportation projects – more than quadruple amount the State has historically spent on these critical projects — that’s real progress.
- More money for transit + active transportation than for new highways. A budget is a moral document. For the first time in our state’s history, this package invests more in transit and active transportation than new highway capacity. That’s the start of a much needed sea change.
- Kids ride free! Move Ahead WA provides resources for every transit system in Washington to go fare-free for riders under 18, including transit, passenger rail, and ferries. The only program like this in the country, it creates access to opportunity for a new generation of transit riders and lowers transportation costs for families.
- Environmental Justice oversight. The legislation directs the Environmental Justice Council to provide recommendations in the development and implementation of climate programs, including the transit and active transportation spending. This ensures community oversight and accountability for future spending.
- $50 million for a new Connecting Communities grant program, which aims to improve active transportation connectivity in vulnerable and overburdened communities by providing safe, continuous routes for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-vehicle users.
- Tribal transit service. Tribal transportation is a vital part of Washington’s transportation systems and centering Indigenous voices needs to be a high priority for our state. Many tribes are still fighting for federal recognition and working against massive historical and systemic inequities, including mobility access. This new package invests in Tribal mobility grants and puts money towards connecting communities.
- Complete Streets priorities. The package directs state agencies to identify large projects projects that currently lack accessible walking and biking connections and implement design solutions to improve the safety, mobility, and accessibility of state highways for pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation users. This also applies a Complete Streets standard to all future state highway spending, ensuring new projects don’t replicate the design failures of the past.
- Invests $150 million in ultra high speed rail. Move Ahead WA creates the necessary state matching funds to leverage federal dollars and pursue ultra high speed rail connecting Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland.
- $293 million in transit-specific projects directly to agencies. Agencies often know what projects their riders need most. This package directs millions of dollars to support projects across the state like All-Electric Passenger Ferries in Kitsap, Bus Rapid Transit in Spokane, Station Expansion in Bellingham, Bus Base Electrification in King County, BRT in Clark County, Light Rail access in Fife, and route extensions in Yakima, just to name a few.
- $302 million in projects to improve safety for people walking, biking, and rolling. Every year over 500 people die on Washington’s roads, a number that is on the rise. Move Ahead Washington triples the amount of spending on projects to make our streets and trails safer for people to use including improvements to North Aurora / SR 99 in Seattle, increasing bike and pedestrian access along SR 167 from Fife to Puyallup, Pacific Avenue Greenway in Spokane, and Safe Routes to Schools in Sedro-Wooley, just to name a few.
- Free bikes for kids! If you’ve got a kid who wants to bike, good news. This package includes funding to put free bikes in the hands of kids across Washington, focusing on kids at schools in neighborhoods with disproportionate poverty, people of color, high crash volumes, and experiencing environmental health disparities.
- New local funding options. While providing historic levels of direct state funding, the bill also provides additional taxing options for local jurisdictions, including a new 2% utilities tax as well as expanding Transportation Benefit District authority (one of the only options available for transit service).
This first version of a package is a fantastic start; now legislators need to pass it. Between now and the end of session we’ll be advocating to make sure any changes to the package favor its current paradigm shift toward a multimodal future. There are a few things we’ll want legislators to clarify in the bill, like some of the transit support grants provisions. And we’ll also be paying attention to the supplemental budget, to make sure it funds studies that will support implementation of the package.
The next step in all this will be a hearing of the Senate Transportation Committee tomorrow, Thursday, February 10, at 8:00am. Sign in pro to the hearing before 7:00am tomorrow — it’s a simple and tangible way to let legislators know you support the bill. We’ll also have a rally in support of this transformative new package on Tuesday, February 15! Join us there to celebrate together and push for a transit-forward future.