Wash. gas tax rises July 1; $1.3 billion to non-highway uses

Wash. gas tax rises July 1; $1.3 billion to non-highway uses

Washington's gas tax hike this Friday will fund more than just highways. More than $1 billion will go for bike paths, walkways and other non-highway uses. (Dave Workman photo)
Washington's gas tax hike this Friday will fund more than just highways. More than $1 billion will go for bike paths, walkways and other non-highway uses. (Dave Workman photo)
Washington’s gas tax hike this Friday will fund more than just highways. More than $1 billion will go for bike paths, walkways and other non-highway uses. (Dave Workman photo)

When Evergreen State motorists start paying a nickel more for a gallon of gas this Friday, part of the $16 billion their taxes will go toward bike paths, walkways, rail and transit.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), “Governor (Jay) Inslee and Washington’s Legislators have made an important investment in our state’s multimodal transportation system.”

But critics argue that there should also be bicycle taxes, and other revenue sources to pay for those things, rather than put the expense on the backs of motorists.

The bulk of revenues generated by the gas tax hike will go to highways and local roads ($9.4 billion), plus highway maintenance, operations and preservation ($1.4 billion). Another $602 million will be spent on ferries and terminals, and $300 million is earmarked for removing fish barriers.

But it’s the $1.3 billion that is set aside for “non-highway projects” that is a source of irritation for many conservatives and DOT critics. That’s a lot of money going to projects that seem designed to get people out of their cars, they contend.

The subject will likely be hot over the next several days leading up to the imposition of the additional tax on July 1. The temporary offset of lower gasoline prices at the pump over the holiday weekend may soften the blow, but if fuel prices bounce back up, the pinch will be felt.

This hike follows the 7-cent per gallon hike that took effect last Aug. 1. Washington boasts one of the highest gasoline taxes in the nation.

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