Legislators in Washington concluded the 2021 legislative session without passing a new transportation package, citing the need to “wait and see” what would come from the federal infrastructure debate. Based on the initial proposal from Democrats, we were hopeful that sea-changing investments in transit, clean transportation and human-centered infrastructure were on the table. The long-awaited support from the Federal government was finally coming.
“We now know, the federal infrastructure package isn’t going to cut it. ” said Alex Hudson, TCC’s Executive Director. “We need our state legislators to get back to work and produce a truly progressive transportation package to invest in Washington’s future.”
The federal bipartisan deal is a far cry from initial proposals. The dealmaking halved investments to transit, made major pullbacks on electrification, and slashed funds to reconnect communities that have been decimated by highway construction. Some will spin this is as a “historic” investment in transit, but when the public’s true transit needs have been neglected for decades, what we were counting on was nothing short of a complete paradigm shift. In fact, the proposed deal includes $110 billion for roads, bridges, and major projects, doubling down on the kind of infrastructure that has led to gross environmental and health inequities for communities of color. We simply cannot make the same mistake here at home.
It’s time for Washington’s legislatures to take up the reins of transportation leadership again, and address our state’s unprecedented needs. The State itself estimates that it will take at least $24 billion to make transit a reliable and accessible choice across the state over the next 10 years, $9 billion to close the gaps in our sidewalks and bike system, and several billion more to ensure we can transition to an electric system before the clock runs out on climate change. The legislature has been mulling over a special session to get us the transportation investments we need. The time to ponder is over, the time to act is now.
We have major issues to address, and strategic investment in transportation is as close to a panacea solution as policymaking comes. Transportation investments can provide good jobs and spur economic recovery; increase access to opportunities like education and work; and transition us away from dependence on driving dirty vehicles, and driving at all. We have already experienced a record-setting heat wave, and we are on the cusp of what is now our annual “smoke season.” There is no time to “wait and see” anymore.
Legislators need to come together now, and put forward a progressive proposal for transportation. We’ve got work to do in Washington to take care of Washingtonians.