The 2015-17 Capital Budget invests $15.6 million, or almost a 50% increase from the previous two-year capital budget, for trails.
We at Washington Bikes are excited to report that trail funding in the two-year Washington State Capital Budget will reach an all-time high of $15.6 million funding 18 iconic trails, long-distance trails, and trails that will help rebuild local economies.
Thursday afternoon, the Washington State Senate passed 43-1 (5 absent) legislation authorizing bonding for the Capital Budget. This legislation represents the last piece of the State Capital Budget puzzle held up for over a week due to other legislative conflicts. While lesser known than the transportation budget, the State Capital Budget serves as an important role in building out Washington state’s bicycle trail network. This trail network helps fuel the $3.1 billion in spending that bicycle riders contribute to the state economy.
“Investments in trails across the state help build local economies by attracting bicycle travelers who want safe and inviting facilities,” said Washington Bikes’ Executive Director Barb Chamberlain. “We’re pleased that the Washington Bikes policy team was able to collaborate with legislators from both parties to bring trail funding to an all-time high in the state capital budget.”
Strong funding for the Capital Budget’s Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) was one of Washington Bikes’ top legislative priorities heading into the 2015 session. Assuming substantial WWRP funding, Washington Bikes sought to see another biennium with $6-10 million in trail project investments statewide.
Instead, due to several dramatic twists and turns in program funding and capital budget prioritization, funding for 18 priority trails actually grew to the record level of $15.6 million spread across three different program areas in the Capital Budget.
The budget funds numerous projects that are high priorities for advocates and communities statewide. It funds important connectors and improvements for the Olympic Discovery Trail, the Whitehorse Trail, the Ferry County Rail Trail, the East Lake Sammamish Trail, Spokane Valley’s Appleway Trail, the Foothills Trail in Pierce County, the emerging Sound to Olympics Trail, as well as one of the larger but more undeveloped trails in the state – the Willapa Hills Trail.
What’s more exciting than announcing new trails funding? The prospect of completing critical connectors in some of our best trails across Washington state. Stay tuned over the coming years as these trail projects reach completion and help Washington Bikes grow bicycling statewide.