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Published on Thursday, April 28, 2016

Supplemental transportation budget passes

Although the Legislature’s failure to adopt a supplemental operating budget forced them to go into a special session, they did pass a supplemental transportation budget during the regular session. It contains a couple of items of interest to cities.

As you may recall, the transportation package from 2015 included new direct distributions of gas tax revenues and multi-modal funds for cities and counties. (The revenues for the multi-modal distributions are derived primarily from license and weight fees, rather than the gas tax). Unfortunately, through an oversight, the multi-modal funds for local governments were not properly appropriated in the transportation budget. The passage of this supplemental transportation budget fixes that and cities will now be receieving these funds on a quarterly basis. For more information on spending and tracking the multi-modal distributions please see this article from MRSC.

The supplemental transportation budget also includes new appropriations aimed at making progress towards identifying, prioritizing, and correcting fish passage barriers (primarily culverts) on local streets and roads. It provides $300,000 to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for the Fish Passage Barrier Removal Board to work with cities and counties to “to inventory and undertake predesign and scoping activities associated with fish passage barrier corrections on city streets and county roads.”

It also provides $131,000 to the Department of Ecology to “develop a framework with the department of transportation and the department of fish and wildlife for correcting fish passage barriers on city streets as compensatory mitigation for environmental impacts of transportation projects” and to “develop and implement an umbrella statewide in-lieu fee program or other formal means to provide a streamlined mechanism to undertake priority local fish passage barrier corrections.” The 2015 transportation package authorized the concept of addressing local fish passage barriers as potential compensatory mitigation for state transportation projects, but it did not provide funding to the state agencies to implement the idea. This new appropriation addresses that need.