The state house just passed legislation increasing fees for things like driver licenses, license plates, and license exams to help pay for road maintenance, new ferries, and, notably, direct financial aid to transit agencies as well as bike and pedestrian improvements.

The legislation's long path to passage began back in early April, when state house transportation chair Judy Clibborn introduced a much larger version of the bill that transit advocates opposed because it included no just $2 million for nonmotorized transportation, or about 1 percent of the $161 million package. (The rest of the money was focused on highway operations and maintenance, local streets, and car ferries---the highways of the water).

Liberals in the house, including Marko Liias (D-21), Joe Fitzgibbon (D-37) and Dave Upthegrove (D-33) amended the bill to include more funding for transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and stormwater cleanup. Clibborn subsequently introduced a substitute version of the bill that stripped the green amendments, infuriating progressives whose votes ensured that the bill made it out of committee.

However, under pressure from liberals in her caucus, Clibborn agreed to a scaled-back version of the bill (about $85 million) that, unlike earlier versions of the bill, includes $13 million in direct payouts to transit agencies, including $1.1 million to Community Transit (Snohomish County), $2.6 million to King County Metro, $1.5 million to Pierce Transit, and $1.7 million to Sound Transit. Another $3 million is earmarked for bike and pedestrian projects.

Viet Shelton, campaign director for the Transportation Choices Coalition, says that even though the total funding for transit and bike/ped projects isn't huge, the fact that such a large percentage of the money will go to nonmotorized projects (13 percent, compared to the 1 percent in the original bill) marks a symbolic shift toward balanced transportation funding at the state level. "If  you look at the size of the revenue increase and then proportionally look at what transit's getting, it's a decent chunk," Shelton says.

The state is expected to debate a multi-billion-dollar transportation package next year, and advocates for both roads and nonmotorized transportation are gearing up to push for funding for their priorities.

The senate will likely vote on the package later today.

Liias and Upthegrove did not immediately return calls for comment.
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