OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The Senate passed a $4.3 billion transportation budget Wednesday that continues paying for several highway mega-projects, including the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle.   The measure passed on a bipartisan 41-6 vote. The House is set to pass its own transportation budget on Friday. In the coming weeks, the two chambers will reach a compromise plan.

The Senate's transportation budget delays 31 projects that rely on dwindling gas tax revenue. They include transit and car pool lane improvements to Interstate 90 between Seattle and Bellevue, and a proposed "cross-base" highway in the Tacoma area.

The budget allots money to buy four ferries, and also continues paying for about 400 other projects. A half-dozen major highway projects would continue drawing money based on the project list developed last year, including the State Route 520 bridge over Lake Washington and the State Route 395 North Spokane Corridor.

"This summer when you're driving on the highways and you're coming upon those gold cones and you're aggravated, just remember that there are jobs being created," said Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. "It will have an impact on the state of Washington."

The original 16-year gas tax-financed construction plan is now short by about $6 billion, due to dropping tax revenue and construction cost inflation, which means money for new projects is now projected to run out in 2015.

That revenue shortfall is why 31 more planned highway projects are on a list to be delayed pending a new source of money. "I've got to believe that we have balanced the budget for the next six years, and I've got to believe that in the next six years we can find a way to fund those projects too," said ranking Republican transportation leader, Sen. Dan Swecker of Rochester.  "It's not a perfect budget, but we did our very best."
The Senate transportation budget is Senate Bill 5352.