Gov. Gregoire Signs Transportation Budget in Washington

OLYMPIA, Wash., May 16 -- Gov. Christine O. Gregoire, D-Wash., issued the following press release:

Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed the 2011-13 transportation budget, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1175, into law. The budget will put approximately 30,000 people to work and invest $5.6 billion from dedicated transportation funds in more than 800 transportation construction projects throughout the state. The governor also announced she is forming the Transportation Advisory Group, which will develop and present a transportation investment and revenue plan to the Legislature and public in 2012.

"Transportation projects are economic lifelines for workers, communities and small businesses," Gregoire said. "This budget will put nearly 30,000 people to work in communities across the state. Better roads and less congestion mean small businesses will be able to transport their products to customers in less time and improve their bottom lines."

The budget will also help fund other transportation needs, including:

* $10 million to address pollution from stormwater on state highways

* $344 million for high-speed rail projects to help the state reach its goals of six daily round trips between Seattle and Portland by 2017

* $49 million for regional mobility grants to improve transit mobility and reduce congestion

* $25 million in grants for providers of special needs transportation

* $17 million for rural mobility grants for rural and small cities' transit systems and providers

These and hundreds of other transportation improvements were funded in part by the 2003 and 2005 transportation revenue packages approved by state voters. As of March 31, 2011, 300 of the packages' projects have been completed, more than 90 percent of them on time and 92 percent on or under budget. But the vast majority - 92 percent - of projects will be under contract or complete by the 2011-13 biennium's end, and the transportation system's needs extend beyond what the packages provide.

The transportation revenue packages did not provide funds to finish major projects, such as replacing the State Route 520 bridge and Interstate 5 Columbia River crossing, and building the North Spokane corridor. The packages did not fully fund the state ferry system, which faces a $1 billion shortfall over the next 10 years. As city and county populations continue to increase, mass transit is needed to grow to accommodate more commuters and routes. And after highways, roads and bridges are built, resources are needed to repair and maintain them. With so many needs on the horizon, it is clear a long-term transportation investment strategy with new revenue is necessary.

The governor announced today the formation of the Transportation Advisory Group and asked its members to develop a 10-year investment and funding strategy for the state's transportation system. The group's members, who include Senators Mary Margaret Haugen and Curtis King, Representatives Judy Clibborn and Mike Armstrong, and business and community leaders, will present their recommendations to the Legislature and public in 2012.

How to fund the ferry system will be among the chief decisions expected of the group. While the Legislature patched together some sources of funding to keep the ferries operating for two more years, the ferry system's $1 billion total budget hole has not been filled. For any query with respect to this article or any other content requirement, please contact Editor at htsyndication@hindustantimes.com

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