The whooshing sound you may hear someday will be that of bicycles and other human-powered transport on the pavement that completes the Yakima Greenway path between Yakima and Naches. What you’re hearing now is a sigh of relief from advocates of pathways and transit from around the state after Gov. Jay Inslee correctly decided against swallowing the “poison pill.”
Last week, Inslee announced that he would not pursue a low-carbon fuel standard that would have imperiled $2 billion in bike, pedestrian and transit projects that were included in the state’s $16 billion transportation budget.
Such multimodal amenities are usually viewed as the province of urbanized Puget Sound communities. But with Yakima Republican Curtis King chairing the Senate Transportation Committee, the legislative package allocates $6 million for local projects. Among them are completing the “missing link” of the Greenway path; a trail along Cowiche Canyon Road that will connect with the trail system of the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy as part of the William O. Douglas Trail; and new buses for Yakima Transit.
Such projects helped win the favor of recreational, environmental and transit interests, which hold considerable clout in Western Washington and are allies of Inslee’s “green” agenda. What they didn’t favor was a caveat that came at Republican insistence: If Inslee issued an executive order that enacted a low-carbon fuel standard, the $2 billion would be shifted to highway projects. Thus, the “poison pill.”
The provision forced a difficult choice for Inslee, which was the Republicans’ intent. King said a low-carbon fuel standard could have led to significantly higher gasoline prices — and this after a gas-tax increase totaling 11.9 cents per gallon over two years goes into effect. As much as Inslee’s allies would like to see a carbon tax, they wanted a sure thing worth $2 billion even more.
Whatever one may think of the legislative tactics, we were also happy to see the governor’s decision. The Yakima Greenway and Cowiche Canyon Conservancy comprise two of the region’s recreational jewels; the William O. Douglas Trail, of course, honors the late Supreme Court justice who was one of Yakima’s most famed residents. That the trail will help link the Greenway with Cowiche Canyon makes all three part of a connected, comprehensive recreation system. The transit money will provide a welcome modernization of Yakima Transit’s bus fleet.
In this case, the prudent course was to take the money and run — or bike, or walk, or look at flowers and wildlife, however users wish to spend their time on recreational paths. The trails and buses will help people get around a little bit better when the projects are finished.
• Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.