Dispatch from Olympia: Budget Shortfalls Could Impact Active Transportation Projects, Delay Scenic Bikeways Program

The Washington State Legislature adjourned its 2020 session in the beginning days of the emergent COVID-19 pandemic. The three months that have followed have been challenging in myriad ways. Here is an update on the impacts to active transportation that we are aware of based on budget shortfalls projected due to COVID-19.  

Washington State Revenue Forecasts & Budget Shortfalls

Forecasted shortfalls for the next three years will impact every Washingtonian. Beyond the operating budget, the transportation budget shortfalls spell potential trouble for vulnerable road users. A 2021 transportation revenue package could provide relief.

Significant losses in the state operating budget revenue are anticipated for at least the next three years. That likely means cuts to services, education, healthcare, natural resources and other programs funded via the operating budget. Transportation, despite not being funded in the operating budget, will not be spared.

Due to reductions in anticipated transportation revenue including gas tax, ferry revenue, rental car tax and toll revenues, the transportation budget has a forecasted shortfall as well. The June Transportation budget forecast reflects the impacts of I-976 (the Tim Eyman initiative for $30 car tabs which passed at the ballot last November, although is currently being contested in court) and the COVID-19 shutdowns resulting in lower demand for the transportation services that generate revenue.

Work on a potential 2021 transportation revenue package has already started, largely in the form of a Statewide Transportation Needs Assessment, which shows that there is not enough money to fund Washington’s current transportation system. Also of note, the transportation needs assessment was conducted without factoring in the impacts of I-976.

There is a possibility that the Washington State Legislature will convene a special session in late 2020 to address the operating budget revenue shortfall. However, Gov. Jay Inslee has said the state will be able to maintain current appropriation levels until January 2021 when the Legislature is scheduled to return. There will be more to come as the recession and budget scenarios play out. Washington Bikes will continue to advocate for funding that supports people who bike, walk or roll. Amidst the global pandemic, Washingtonians are choosing to bike and walk more frequently. We want to ensure there are safe, comfortable places and routes to do so. 

New Scenic Bikeways Program Faces Potential Delay

Due to COVID-19 impacts on the state budget, state agencies were asked to come up with a 15 percent reduction to their individual budgets, and many new programs that had yet to be implemented have been identified for delay. In response to the budget crisis, State Parks has proposed delaying the implementation of the state Scenic Bikeways program that was created in the 2020 session. We understand the need to conserve state resources at this unprecedented moment in time. However, this potential change can not be solidified until the Legislature convenes and amends the timeline. Meantime, we would love to hear your thoughts about what trails and routes you’d like to see designated scenic bike routes!

Safety Stop Legislation to be Enacted Oct. 1 

We are excited that Washington Bikes’ priority legislation in the 2020 legislative session, the Safety Stop, is just months from becoming law. The date people bicycling will legally be allowed to treat a stop sign as a yield is Oct. 1, 2020. Check back here for more information as we approach the Safety Stop enactment date!


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