Rep. Mike Armstrong, ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, has been appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire to serve on the “Connecting Washington Task Force.” The 29-member group, chaired by Gregoire, is charged with developing a 10-year investing and funding plan for the state’s transportation system and presenting it to the 2012 Legislature.
Armstrong said, “We will be looking at how to move transportation into the future in Washington and trying to find possible funding solutions to the transportation maintenance and infrastructure problems we have in this state.”
The state has primarily relied on revenues derived from gas taxes to pay for highways, bridges and expanded capacity to alleviate growing traffic problems. However greater fuel efficiency in vehicles has led to declining gas tax revenues in recent years, putting the state in a bind when it comes to increasing capacity or just keeping up with maintenance of existing highways.
Washington currently 37-and-a-half cents in state gas tax for every gallon they purchase, about 15 cents more per gallon than the national average.
Armstrong explained that the last two increases in the state’s gas tax have already been committed for the next 25 years to pay off bonds that financed transportation projects across the state. So there’s no revenue remaining to pay for any new transportation projects in Washington after 2015.
“I’m hoping that through this committee, we look at all of the options out there, including tolling in some of the more congested areas, particularly the I-5 corridor, and tying any new tolls to the projects they are to pay for, and then discontinuing those tolls once the project is paid off.” said Armstrong.”
The task force is made up of local government officials, legislators from both the House and Senate, and representatives from tribes, organized labor, trade associations and businesses, along with transit, consumer and environmental advocates. The group is expected to submit its recommendations to the Legislature by December 1st .
“I think we have a good cross-section of folks at the table to help us discuss and find solutions that will carry our state’s transportation system into the next decade, and I’m looking forward to it,” concluded Armstrong.