Washington License Plates to Get More Expensive July 1


At the end of this week, motorists will pay more for a Washington license plate. It's likely to be the most noticeable change as pieces of a new $17 billion bill to fund transportation in the state start taking effect.

On Friday, the price of a new plate will rise from $10 to $50, while the price of replacing a lost plate will increase from $10 to $30.

For motorcyclists, the cost of a license plate will go from $4 to $20 and a replacement will cost $12, also up from $4.

Additionally, the price of a temporary registration on a vehicle purchased from a dealer will go from $15 to $40. The so-called stolen vehicle check fee, issued when out-of-state vehicles register in Washington for the first time, will rise from $15 to $50.

Money from license-plate fees has gone to the state's motor vehicle fund, which is used for work on the state's roads and highways. The additional revenues from the fees taking effect this week will go into an account earmarked for projects laid out in the new transportation package.

The state issued around 1.5 million new plates in each of the last two years.

Combined, the price bumps are projected to raise just over $2 billion over the next 16 years, making it a significant funding stream for the Legislature's sizable transportation plan.

The rest of the legislation is set to be funded through a new carbon-trading system in Washington that's estimated to raise over $5 billion. Additionally, federal funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill is estimated to provide around $3.4 billion. The Legislature also approved a one-time, $2 billion transfer from the state's general fund for transportation improvements.

The overall package, the fourth approved by the Legislature in the last 20 years, was passed with almost no Republican votes — a change from previous measures that won bipartisan support.

While large portions of the $17 billion will go toward completing and beginning major highway projects — including a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River, the Puget Sound Gateway project connecting Highway 167 to I-5, building a new Highway 520 bridge over Portage Bay in Seattle and more — it also spends heavily on transit and "active transportation" projects for walkers and bikers.

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, who led the negotiations, called the changes to the fees "modest increases" that "will help fund critical investments and create jobs all over our state." Liias pointed to the fact that the transportation package was accomplished without raising the gas tax any higher than its current $0.49, as previous packages had done.

"Our transportation system needs investments, from fixing potholes to repairing aging bridges to modernizing our ferry fleet," he said.

Republicans, meanwhile, blasted Democrats for the fee increases.

"The partisan transportation package from the majority will punish drivers throughout Washington with higher fees and taxes," Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, said at the time of the bill's passage.

A number of other provisions contained in the transportation package also take effect July 1. Notably, cities will now be allowed to install automated speed-limit enforcement cameras in more places than just school zones. If they choose to do so, cities can now place the cameras along walking routes to schools, near parks and around hospitals to enforce speed limits.

Any city may install one camera, as well as one additional camera per every 10,000 residents.

Additionally, the process for planning how Washington will meet its goals of phasing out new gas-powered cars by 2030 officially kicks off Friday, as does the process for cities to apply for state grants to expand transit service or facilities.