Funds for Snoqualmie Parkway, SR 18 included in state transit proposal

Funding to widen the final section of State Route 18 and resurface the Snoqualmie Parkway are included in a new transportation package that was introduced by Democratic legislators on Feb. 8.

The Move Ahead Washington Transportation Package, which state Democrats call a historic investment in the state infrastructure and transit, will spend $16.8 billion on transportation projects over the next 16 years and includes nearly $5 million for the Snoqualmie Parkway and $640 million for SR 18.

“Snoqualmie is getting a grand slam with this thing,” said Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, who has been working on both projects during his time in the Senate. “This is the best possible thing we could have asked for. We’re getting our project paid for without a new gas tax.”

Widening the entirety of SR 18 from two to four lanes has been nearly a 30-year-long process, and the section between Issaquah Hobart Road and Deep Creek is the final portion in need of construction funding. Its $640 million price tag is the second most expensive capital project funded in the package, behind only the failing I-5 Columbia River Bridge project.

SR 18 is critical to the Valley’s economy and its improvement has been a top priority for the SnoValley Chamber of Commerce, Snoqualmie Tribe and local businesses. The highway has been one of the most dangerous and deadly in King County, being notorious for head-on collisions. Nearly 23,000 drivers use the road daily — including 4,000 commuting to jobs in the Valley.

In a similar vein, Snoqualmie officials have been working for years to secure state funding to repave the Snoqualmie Parkway, with the city council naming the project as one of its top two priorities for this year’s legislative session.

Although the parkway is not a state highway, freight trucks frequent the road for its proximity between I-90 and SR 202, causing massive damage. In 2021, the road received a 53 out of 100 on the pavement condition index where 60 represents poor condition. A report estimates 95% of those damages were caused by large freight trucks.

Although it’s uncertain what, if any, changes the package will undergo as it makes its way through both chambers, Mullet and Rep. Bill Ramos, D-Issaquah, said they do not expect the bill to undergo major adjustments.

“Over my dead body is anybody taking these projects out,” Mullet said.

Ramos, the vice chair of the House Transportation Committee, said the inclusion of both projects is huge, calling the overall transit package distinct in its effort to address equity, inclusion and environmental justice in transportation.

“It’s much more valued based in what we’re choosing to fund,” he said. “Previous packages have been a list of projects we were going to construct. This is not that way.”

Ramos highlights that the bill provides more construction jobs and includes requirements that projects offer apprenticeship programs and incentivize offers for minority and women-owned contractors. He also said the bill will provide tools for cities and counties to fund their own transportation projects by allowing them to tax natural gas, steam power and telecommunication businesses for transporation funds.

The bill sets aside nearly $11.4 billion in highway and ferry spending, including: $2.6 billion for new highway projects, $1.4 billion for existing projects, $1.1 billion for state ferries, $3 billion for preservation and maintenance, $1.2 billion for bike, bus and pedestrian projects, and $2.4 billion for fish barrier removal.

A big change for the bill is the way it’s funded and its environmental focus. Previous transportation packages have been primarily funded through a gas tax, which has lost value over the years as vehicle fuel efficiency improves and more cars become electric.

This package is funded through an array of sources, including a $5.4 billion portion out of the state’s carbon cap-and-trade system, which can only be spent on projects to reduce carbon emissions and excludes roadway projects. Those dollars will be spent on improving public transportation, pedestrian, bike and school infrastructure, high speed rail and electric state ferries, among others.

Other funding sources include $3.5 billion from the federal infrastructure bill, $2 billion from the general fund and $2 billion from a 6-cent tax increase on exported fuel. The bill would also collect an additional $2.3 billion from an increase in license plate fees.