The legislation, a last-minute proposal by state house transportation chair Judy Clibborn, would drastically increase driver-license fees (from $25 to $45 for a new license, for example) to pay for the state ferry system, highway operations and maintenance, and local streets, among other things. Environmental advocates note that the proposal, which would raise about $161 million, only includes about $8 million for transit (in the form of grants for paratransit service and $2 million for safe bike and pedestrian routes to schools.
"We're pretty disappointed," Cascade Bicycle Club advocacy director David Hiller says. "We have a $1.4 billion---billion!---backlog of nonmotorized safety projects across the state that are looking at huge cuts. Two million dollars is 1.25 percent of this package." Hiller says the proposal is yet another example of the state legislature "fundamentally failing to recognize that driving is a massively subsidized activity." Hiller points out that many people who have driver licenses don't even drive (and non-driving IDs cost even more than licenses), and notes that the state ferry system charges a surcharge for riders who bring their bikes aboard "even if they don't have any wheels."
"If [the ferry system] was interested in getting people out of their cars we wouldn't be in this [financial] crisis," Hiller says.
April Putney, the Olympia lobbyist for the Seattle-based environmental group Futurewise, says the legislation "grossly underfunds transit and bike and pedestrian programs, even though they have just as significant [funding problems] as the other transportation projects" in the package.
Environmentalists will testify against the Clibborn proposal at the state house transportation committee meeting at 8 am next Monday.