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Washington lawmakers work toward finalizing transportation budget

Versions of the Washington State Transportation budget have cleared both the Senate, and the House this week.

Both budgets, over $13 billion dollars, include funding for a number of large Eastern Washington projects, such as improvements to Interstate 90 on the West Plains, and between Spokane and the Idaho border.

It also preserves funding for the North South corridor. Washington Governor Jay Inlsee’s proposed budget pushed the project to back to 2035

Both the Senate, and House have chosen to keep the project’s current timeline on track, with a 2030 completion date.

In January, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward told state leaders that pushing the corridor back would stifle growth in areas that are already struggling.

“Just a reminder to you all, this project was proposed back in 1946, its already experienced significant delays since construction began more than 20 years ago in 2001,” she said. “Any more delays makes it that much more expensive to complete and that much more challenging to restart.”

In addition to funding Eastern Washington highway projects, public transportation was also a major component in the budget. There’s funding for the bus rapid transit project on Division Street in Spokane, fleet electrification the Spokane Transit Authority’s bus fleet, which serves Spokane County. There was also funds for a park and ride improvements to the Cheney transit corridor.

Those investments, and others like it across the state, won the support of many clean energy and environmental groups, as well as transit advocates including Justin Leighton, executive director of the Washington Transit Association.

During a House Transportation committee meeting last week, he said the proposed budget provides the assistance many smaller communities need to launch public transportation projects.

“It is over $600 million dollars in public transit throughout the state no matter where you are from,” he said. “Including 55 million in the green transit grant programs that are funding electrification, hydrogen projects and conversion to clean energy from Valley Transit in Walla Walla, to Jefferson County, Link Transit in Wenatchee to C-Tran in Vancouver.”

The house’s transportation budget was approved in a 96-1 vote Monday. The senate voted a version out of committee, but has not yet debated it on the floor.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.