House Democrats rolled out a nearly $10 billion transportation package Wednesday that would boost taxes on gasoline, increase car tabs and even charge a bicycle fee to raise money. The proposal would increase the state gas tax by 10 cents over five years, eventually reaching a total of 47.5 cents per gallon. Currently, Washington state has the nation’s ninth-highest gas tax.
In addition, it would create a car tab equal to 0.7 percent of a vehicle’s value. A state tax on hazardous chemicals would increase by 0.3 percent, to 1 percent.
There’s even a $25 sales fee on bicycles worth $500 or more that raises a total $1 million over 10 years, included for largely symbolic reasons.
The lion's share of these taxes would pay for improvements to Highways 167 and 509, I-405, I-5 down in Vancouver, and I-90 on Snoqualmie Pass. Those aren't really highways that bicycles use. I'm not opposed to paying a road usage fee for a bicycle—I think it's fine for bike riders to chip in for their impact on the road, which is minimal compared to vehicles—but it seems weird to pay a bicycle excise tax to fund freeways that cyclists don't use. Granted, there may be a smattering of bike facilities associated with new highways, even though this budget doesn't provide a cent for the new 520 bridge, which will have bike accommodations. According to the report above, the bill set aside about one-tenth of its funds for maintenance of state highways and local roads. But realistically, it's not clear that any of that money would go towards the local roads that cyclists ride on (local roads are built and maintained overwhelmingly by local governments, not the state). I have a call in to Representative Judy Clibborn, who chairs the House transportation committee, and Seattle transportation officials to ask if this bill would provide better infrastructure for cyclists.