In anticipation of the legislature releasing their state budget proposals, this week’s transportation and infrastructure update will focus on things we will be looking for in both the Transportation and Capital Budgets as it relates to county infrastructure priorities.
For the Capital Budget:
We are hoping to see, at a minimum, an appropriation for the Public Works Assistance Account that is in line with the Governor’s proposal of $400 million. Fully funding the Public Works Board’s request would bring the number to $425 million, but the Governor’s proposal would go a long way toward replacing and restoring the backlog of failing local infrastructure in our state. It also honors the promise to sunset the revenue diversions from this account that has, for many years, kept the program from operating at its full potential.
Second, we will be watching closely for the level of funding the budgets provide for the Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board. There are over 8,000 locally owned fish barriers, with an average cost of $1.8 million to correct. For this reason, we have asked the legislature to fully fund the Board’s project list in the Capital Budget at $94.6 million. Recognizing that this might not be possible, we appreciate the Governor’s proposed award of $48 million and hope the legislature will include it.
For the Transportation Budget:
The 2022 Supplemental Transportation Budget directed the Joint Transportation Committee (JTC) to convene a workgroup to recommend a funding split between the state and local jurisdictions for Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act formula programs. The workgroup recommended several significant changes that should be reflected in the Transportation Budget. We have requested that these changes for the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, new Bridge Replacement Program, and new PROTECT Program be included. We also appreciate and support the proposed award of $25 million in the Governor’s Budget for the WSDOT agency request to establish a Federal Fund Exchange Pilot Program.
We are watching to see what level of funding our agency partners at the County Road Administration Board (CRAB) and the Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) receive.
We fully support the maintenance level requests of $38.6 million for the County Arterial Preservation Program (CAPP) and $63.5 million for the Rural Arterial Trust Account. The distribution of CAPP funding is essential for maintenance and preservation. As competitive grant awards, Rural Arterial Program projects ensure prioritization and accountability across the state.
We remain optimistic that CRAB’s budget request to hire two new FTEs who specialize in transportation planning and federal funding programs will be in the final budgets. This will help alleviate some of the capacity problems our smaller jurisdictions are facing. This new proposal addresses how CRAB can provide the technical assistance needed by local governments to navigate the federal system, pursue grant opportunities, and maximize the federal investment made in our transportation system.
Finally, we would like to see additional resources for the new Reducing Rural Roadway Departures program. The Governor’s proposal would increase funding for the program to $2 million a year, or $4 million for the biennium, and we hope that the House and Senate budgets will also include additional funding for this important safety program.
WSACE, Policy Director