Reviewing local transportation priorities and state funding


Transportation priorities in Chelan and Douglas counties - four key projects

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Transportation infrastructure is critical to our area’s economic growth and quality of life. Not only is having an efficient and effective transportation system important for getting our crops to market, it is important for safety. It is also becoming an increasing challenge for our everyday commutes. These are reasons why the issue of transportation continues to be one of my top priorities as a legislator.

On October 11, I attended the Chelan-Douglas Transportation Council’s meeting at the Confluence Technology Center in Wenatchee. This group is comprised of local elected officials and other transportation leaders throughout Chelan and Douglas counties. During the meeting, the council presented its 2019 transportation funding priorities, all of which are key components to enhancing a loop around the greater Wenatchee Valley.

The council emphasized the importance of proper maintenance and preservation of our existing transportation system and focused on these four new projects of interest:

  • McKittrick Street BNSF Railroad Underpass ($25 million). This project would create a much-needed underpass at the railroad crossing near McKittrick Street in North Wenatchee. The proposed underpass is ranked No. 2 statewide among priority railroad grade separation projects. The right of way already has been acquired with local funds, allowing design and construction to begin once funding is secured. To view an image of this project, click here.
  • U.S. 2/97 Wenatchi Landing Interchange ($21 million). This project would be located in Douglas County near the Olds Station Bridge. It would include construction of a half-diamond interchange with arterial street connections that would function as the east half of the interchange. The project would create highway access to the 300-plus-acre site within the East Wenatchee Urban Growth Area to facilitate development. To view a map of this project, click here.
  • South Wenatchee Apple Capital Loop Trail Connection ($4 million). The project would construct a BNSF Railroad overpass to establish a pedestrian/bicycle connection to the Apple Capital Loop Trail for South Wenatchee neighborhoods. This bridge helps provide a much-needed connection between these neighborhoods and our cherished loop trail infrastructure, providing safe access by avoiding the railroad crossings. To view a map of this project, click here.
  • Confluence Parkway ($113 million). This project would help mitigate the growing traffic challenges in North Wenatchee near the Wenatchee River. A new roadway and new bridge would be constructed and connect to the U.S. 2/97 Interchange. The project also would realign the Apple Capital Loop Trail and build railroad grade separation at the SR 285 connection. You can view a map of this project below, or by clicking here.

Methow bridges need repair and replacement

In addition to the priorities in Chelan and Douglas counties discussed above, there are transportation needs within the 12th District boundaries of Okanogan County. Multiple bridges along the SR 153 corridor in the Methow Valley (between Pateros and Twisp) are in need of repair and replacement. In total, 11 bridges on SR 153, constructed between 1933 and 1950, have been deteriorating. Replacement of all 11 bridges is estimated to cost nearly $100 million. Repair work to the sidewalks, rails, decks, and other portions of the bridges is less costly, but we know that this type of work, while more affordable initially, simply defers the inevitable and costly transportation challenge ahead in the Methow Valley, one of the most scenic and beautiful areas of our state. Click here to learn more about these aging bridges.

Legislature approves three budgets, including the transportation budget

As you may know, the state Legislature will be developing three budgets in the upcoming session. The operating budget is approximately $45 billion and funds K-12 education, higher education, health and human services, corrections and other operations of state government. The capital budget is about $4.6 billion and funds infrastructure and land-related items, such as construction assistance to K-12 schools, university buildings, mental health institutions, and correctional facilities. The transportation budget is $9.5 billion and funds transportation agencies and the construction of previously approved projects.

Two-year transportation budgets and periodic "revenue/gas tax" proposals

It is important to understand the distinction between the transportation budget, which is approved every two years at the start of the new biennium, and the “revenue/gas tax packages,” which are proposed periodically, approximately every five to 10 years. The two-year transportation budget is funded primarily by fuel taxes and vehicle license fees. The budget provides funding for the day-to-day operations of our Department of Transportation, Washington State Patrol, and Department of Licensing.

The transportation budget also appropriates funds for a variety of maintenance and preservation projects and numerous construction projects throughout the state based on predetermined schedules. Occasionally, the two-year transportation budgets include opportunities to add smaller-scale items, such as the $2 million contribution toward the West Cashmere Bridge in 2017. In transportation funding terms, this is on the high end of what is considered a smaller appropriation. Assuming the upcoming budget has revenues greater than projected, the Chelan-Douglas Transportation Council’s recent request for $1 million to fund Phase 2 of the Confluence Parkway Environmental Impact Statement could be a viable request for the upcoming two-year budget.

For larger-scale appropriations, revenue packages propose increases in gas taxes and vehicle fees along with a specific list and construction schedule for new projects. The final construction of new projects approved in a new revenue package can take many years to complete, so those projects are scheduled over multiple years and funded during their corresponding two-year transportation budget window. So the primary purpose of the regularly approved transportation budget is to appropriate funds in the upcoming two-year period for agency operations and projects previously passed in a revenue/gas tax package.

Considerations for the 2019 legislative session and federal transportation funding

I realize this description of the two-year transportation budget and the interconnected relationship of the occasionally approved new revenue packages can be confusing, so I thought it would be helpful to explain this information in some detail. In short, new construction projects of major significance (like the ones included in the Chelan-Douglas Transportation Council priorities) do not get completed without corresponding new revenue.

The new revenues that fund new, major state transportation projects come in the form of additional fuel taxes and vehicle fees. Another source of funding for major transportation projects could come in the form of federal grants, which are paid by us as federal taxpayers. Either way, we pay for new, major projects if we want them. If the Legislature pursues a budget and a revenue package in 2019, it is important that our region is prepared to discuss and advocate for our transportation priorities.

Senate Transportation Committee chair's visit to Wenatchee - November 8

I am pleased that my colleague, Senator Steve Hobbs, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, will be visiting Wenatchee on November 8 to learn more about our region’s transportation needs. Senator Hobbs lives in Lake Stevens and represents the 44th Legislative District. He will be attending the Chelan-Douglas Transportation Council meeting on November 8 along with me, Senate Transportation Committee staff, and others. Click here to view council meeting information. Senator Hobbs and I, along with local officials, will be touring different facilities later in the day to discuss our region’s transportation projects and priorities. It is always helpful when other elected officials are willing to take the time to learn about issues and projects important to our area.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve as your state senator.

Brad Hawkins

User menu

NCW Media Newspapers