Archive for transportation

Lawmakers, Inslee say transportation package unlikely in regular session

By | March 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Lawmakers said Wednesday a transportation package looks unlikely to happen before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on Thursday.

Republican leaders discussed the issue at a press conference Wednesday. Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, the co-chair of the Senate transportation committee, said the Majority Coalition Caucus made compromises on spending more than they initially proposed for buses and other modes of transportation, and had lowered their proposed amount of transportation sales and use tax to be dedicated to road projects.

“We made major concessions, we made major moves,” King said Wednesday. “It was obvious from the response we got that they weren’t interested in truly negotiating.”

Construction near the State Route 520 Bridge

Construction crews work on the West Connection Bridge, which is a portion of the new State Route 520 bridge. Photo by Washington State Department of Transportation.

A spokesman for Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, the Democratic co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, disputed King’s characterization that Democrats were not interested in negotiation. Her office released three letters she sent to King that asked for hearings on transportation revenue bills in exchange for hearings on King’s reform bills.

Gov. Jay Inlsee, who has said that road maintenance throughout the state will take a large hit without a transportation tax package this year, called the stalled discussions a “disappointment.”

He said he doesn’t want to see another disaster like the Skagit River bridge collapse. “I have seen a bridge at the bottom of a river, and I have told them that I don’t want any of them to see that,” he told reporters.

A transportation agreement before the end of session is unlikely, Inslee and King both said.

“We will continue to work on this, but it won’t happen this week,” Inslee said.

Categories: transportation

WSDOT secretary: Reforms will need funds

By | January 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Reforms to the Washington State Department of Transportation would require supplemental funding requests, said department secretary Lynn Peterson  in a “State of the State of Transportation” presentation before the House Transportation Committee Monday afternoon.

Lawmakers have said that reforms are key in convincing Legislators and voters to approve a proposed gas tax this year that would pay for maintaining the state’s roads. WSDOT proposed 10 reforms November to improve its accountability and efficiency.

Of the 10 proposed WSDOT reforms, Peterson said she plans to request funding in this year’s state supplemental budget for these three:

1) Increasing the flexibility of project designs.

2) Hiring a Quality Assurance manager that could work across the agency, which would require a new staff person.

3) Increased oversight on making sure that disadvantaged businesses enterprises are hired for jobs. According to Peterson, the Federal Highway Administration found that Washington state is not in compliance with federal standards.

She said that the department will make the requests at a future meeting.

The full list of the 10 reforms proposed by WSDOT is posted on the department’s website.

Peterson also highlighted progress and accomplishments in the department in the past year, including the replacement of the Skagit River Bridge, which collapsed after being struck by a truck, the completion of a safety project on Snoqualmie Pass and the near-completion of an express toll lane on Interstate 405/State Route 167.

The presentation came as state lawmakers consider a transportation tax that would add more than 10 cents a gallon to the price of gasoline to fund projects. That request would come after several high-profile problems with WSDOT megaprojects — poorly designed pontoons for the new State Route 520 bridge, and the stoppage of tunnel boring machine Bertha after 1,000 feet of digging the new Highway 99 tunnel.

Peterson also said that information on why Bertha stopped should be available in the next few days. She said that the 8-inch pipe is not the only reason that the tunnel boring machine stopped.

TVW aired the House Transportation Committee meeting. Video of the hearing will be available on the website.

Bill would ban people from smoking in cars with kids

By | January 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Lawmakers considered an anti-smoking bill this week that would fine drivers who light up when minors are in the car. While the infraction would not go on the driver’s record, it would be a primary traffic offense and cost up to $250.

During a House Transportation Committee hearing on Tuesday, lawmakers heard public testimony from proponents of House Bill 2086. Supporters said that protecting kids from second-hand smoke, which is linked to asthma and other respiratory infections, is reason enough for the ban.

“Our state has a responsibility to protect our kids who can’t speak for themselves and can’t speak up when they’re being exposed,” said Meagan Darrow, program manager for Together!, a Thurston County health nonprofit.

Infants and young children are particularly at risk to the toxins because their lungs are still developing, said Carrie Nyssen with the American Lung Association.

No one testified in opposition of the measure.

But Rep. Marko Liias (D-Mukilteo) raised concerns about the bill, saying it could result in racial profiling by law enforcement officers. “If we look at the demographic of the people who smoke in our society, it’s a lot of folks in marginalized communities,” Liias said.

This will be the fourth time the Legislature has discussed this issue. The committee took no action on the measure Tuesday.

TVW will air a segment about this topic on next week’s edition of “The Impact.” It will air Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 7 and 10 p.m.

Categories: transportation, TVW, WA House

Gas tax could be hard sell after 520, Bertha snafus, lawmakers say

By | January 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

With recent prominent project problems on the State Route 520 Bridge project and the State Route 99 tunnel project, it’s an inopportune time to present a proposed 11.5 percent gas tax to Washington voters that would benefit roads, legislators told reporters Thursday.

“Going out now and asking for more money, it is an uncomfortable time,” Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said. However, Clibborn, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee, said improving the state’s roads is necessary for Washington to keep a competitive edge.

Republican Sen. Curtis King, the co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, agreed that road projects are necessary. He said the public needs to be reassured the Washington State Department of Transportation will adopt reforms to prevent problems like those plaguing the 520 bridge pontoons and Bertha, the big digger boring a tunnel under Seattle that was recently stopped for several weeks by a pipe.

“We can show the citizens  of the state of Washington that we have a revenue package that addresses the problems that we’ve seen, that says we, with these reforms, will make the transportation system more effective and more efficient and less costly to the citizens to ultimately pay for all of these projects,” King said.

The top ranking legislators on the transportation committees in the House and Senate spoke at a Legislative Preview forum organized by the AP on Thursday. Last November, the Senate Transportation Committee debated over a $12.3 billion transportation proposal that would raise gas taxes by 11.5 cents to pay for major road projects across the state.

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R- Kalama, and the ranking minority member on the House Transportation Committee said his constituents see mistakes in smaller road projects in Southwest Washington. Coupled with the high-profile issues, the issues undermine confidence that money will be well spent by WSDOT, he said.
Categories: transportation

Democrats plan to revive Dream Act, abortion insurance bill

By | January 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

Democratic legislative leaders said Wednesday they plan to complete “unfinished business” in the upcoming session, including bringing back controversial policy bills such as the Dream Act and an abortion insurance bill.

The abortion bill, also known by its supporters as the Reproductive Parity Act, would require all insurance companies in the state to cover abortions if they also cover maternity care. It passed the House last year, but never got a vote in the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson said “not passing that bill has resulted in making abortions less available” in Washington state. Group Health Cooperative dropped abortion services from its individual health insurance plans being offered through the Washington state health exchange.

Rep. Pat Sullivan and Sen. Sharon Nelson

Democrats also plan to revive the Washington Dream Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for state financial aid to help pay for college.

No significant new legislation is expected in the short 60-day legislative session, which starts on Monday.

House Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan said he expects “smaller and technical changes” to the supplemental budget. Much of the policy work being done this session is aimed at laying the “groundwork for 2015,” he said.

On transportation, the Democratic leaders say it is the responsibility of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus to introduce a package during session. Sullivan said negotiations ended in mid-December, and the next step is up to the Republican-controlled majority.

520 design flaws push costs $170M over budget

By | January 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

The design errors that caused cracks in the pontoons of the new State Route 520 Bridge and other changes will result in a $170 million project budget overrun, Washington State Department of Transportation secretary Lynn Peterson told legislators Wednesday.

However, Peterson told the Transportation Joint Committee her department likely will be able to cover the overrun without asking the Legislature for more money, but the department will need authorization to cover the project’s budget.

Construction near the State Route 520 Bridge

Construction crews work on the West Connection Bridge, which is a portion of the new State Route 520 bridge. Photo by Washington State Department of Transportation, Oct. 24, 2013.

The construction of the new State Route 520 Bridge between Seattle and Bellevue already was underway in 2012 when cracks were discovered  in the new pontoons installed in Lake Washington. The cracks were attributed to a design flaw, according to the state, and some of the department’s engineers were fired or demoted after the discovery of the error.

The project originally set aside $250 million for contingency and risk. However, the repairs and redesign of the pontoons cost the WSDOT a total of $208 million, Peterson said. Together with other construction change orders and contingency for the remainder of the project, the department says its new project budget now requires $419.8 million for contingencies and risk. That puts the project budget at a $170 million shortfall.

WSDOT is authorized to spend $2.7 billion on the project, and now will need to get authorization for up to $2.9 billion for the project, Peterson said. The entire project is expected to cost $4.65 billion, including aspects of the project not yet authorized for funding.

Peterson told the committee legislators the $170 million overrun likely can be covered by bonds borrowed against tolls and by reallocating money away from other WSDOT projects. The department will not have to increase tolls beyond the already scheduled increases, she said, but other projects may be affected.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said that smaller projects may suffer.

“I can think of a project in my district that has been phased and shortened and delayed,” he said. “The mega-projects will sweep money away from the smaller projects around the state and they will be delayed or not finished.”

Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said while there have been mistakes in the project, WSDOT has saved money and made progress on the bridge construction.

“The reason why we could complete as much as we have is because we have good financing and we have good contract numbers because we bid in an environment when it was very competitive,” she said.

The new 520 bridge will replace the existing four-lane bridge with a new structure that will have six lanes, including HOV lanes, and lanes for pedestrians and bicycles. The project is slated to completed by late 2015 or early 2016, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Other topics covered at the Joint Transportation Committee meeting included a report on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls, the annual report on specialized license plates and a report on ferry performance measures.

Categories: transportation

Freshmen lawmakers discuss legislative priorities

By | January 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

Some of the newest members of the House discussed their personal legislative agendas for the upcoming session.

The representatives include: Rep. Tana Senn, D- Mercer Island, Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D- Seattle, Rep. Chad Magendanz, R- Issaquah, and Rep. Drew MacEwen, R- Union. Senn was appointed by the King County Council to fill a seat vacated by Marcie Maxwell, who resigned in July to join the governor’s office.

While the freshmen agreed that transportation is a key issue, they each have different bills that they are trying to push forward.

Here are their top priorities:

Senn, who is the newest member of House Democratic Caucus, said she plans to focus on childcare bills. She is also focused on finding ways to better integrate human services with early education. “I’m really looking at how we can make sure those can go hand-in-hand and remain together,” Senn said.

Magendanz is interested in improving the higher education system. He will propose a bill that would make Washington the 8th state to use “economic success metrics” to rank higher education institutions. The metrics help students decide which college will give them the “biggest bang for your buck,” Magendanz said.

Oil spill prevention is a top priority for Farrell. She is calling for stricter regulations and transparency for oil transportation policies. “We’re transporting more oil over land, we’re transporting more oil over water and we need to catch up to make sure our communities are safe,” Farrell said.

MacEwen said he wants to reform the state’s business and occupation tax, or B&O tax, to create a business culture in Washington where ”businesses want to stay here.” He is also supporting an aquatic invasive species protection bill to prevent a “catastrophic” outbreak.

The representatives admit that it may be more challenging to achieve their priorities in a short session. With a short 60 day session comes smaller ambitions. Since Washington law prohibits elected officials from raising funds during the session, there is political motivation to finish the job on time.

”There’s a lot of issues that are long-term issues and with this being a short session, I think we’re not going to tackle a lot of them,” Senn said.

TVW will air a segment about the freshmen lawmakers on this week’s edition of ”The Impact.” It will air Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 7 and 10 p.m.

Legislators hear feedback on $12.3 billion transportation proposal, gas tax

By | November 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

Dozens of people testified before the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday about a $12.3 billion transportation proposal that would raise gas taxes by 11.5 cents to pay for major road projects across the state.

Committee co-chair Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, said the state can no longer ignore maintenance of its roads, and must finish the projects it has started. “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it and reap the benefits,” he said.

Several city officials urged legislators to quickly approve the proposal so the state can begin working on a list of projects that range from widening Interstate 5 at Joint Base Lewis McChord to finishing the State Route 520 floating bridge.

“My biggest fear is that you will do nothing,” said Mia Gregerson, the deputy mayor of SeaTac.

“We deserve this package in Washington state,” she said.

Lakewood mayor Don Anderson said the 60-year-old design of Interstate 5 is inadequate for today’s traffic. “I strongly urge you adopt a transportation package that invests in the state’s primary north-south route,” he said.

Under the proposal, the state’s current gas tax of 37.5 cents a gallon would go up in increments to 49 cents a gallon by 2016.

Snohomish mayor Karen Guzak urged the Legislature to go even further, saying the price of gas frequently changes by 20 cents up or down. “You would do better to ask for more money” to ensure people can spend more time with their families, she said, and to reduce the state’s carbon footprint.

Several people criticized the package for not focusing enough on transit, bicycle and pedestrian programs.

Jeff Hamm of the Washington State Transit Association said the transportation package provides “very little real benefit” for bus and transit systems.

“We believe by failing to adequately fund transit this proposal misses the mark,” Hamm said.

Lindsay Hovind of the American Heart Association said the proposal “underinvests” in bike lanes, trails and walkways that encourage people to get outside. “Moving is critical to health,” she said.

The proposal was introduced by the mostly Republican Senate Majority Coalition Caucus. Transportation leaders from the House and Senate say they continue to work on a deal that all parties can agree on.

“We are still in negotiations,” said committee co-chair Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, at the close of Thursday’s meeting.

Gov. Jay Inslee previously said he would call another special session to approve a transportation package if it has enough bipartisan votes in the Legislature to pass.

TVW taped Thursday’s hearing — watch it here.

Categories: transportation

Senate committee will hold public hearing on $12.3 billion transportation proposal

By | November 19, 2013 | 0 Comments

The Senate Transportation Committee is holding a public hearing Thursday on a $12.3 billion transportation proposal that would raise gas taxes by 11.5 cents over three years.

The transportation plan, introduced by the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, would fund more than 50 major road projects across the state. The plan would:

  • Complete the SR 520 floating bridge ($1.3 billion)
  • Extend the SR 509 and SR 167 connections as part of the Puget Sound Gateway project ($1.6 billion)
  • Improve the I-5 corridor at Joint Base Lewis McChord ($350 million)
  • Widen the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass ($390 million)
  • Finish the North-South freeway in Spokane ($750 million)
  • Widen I-405 between Lynnwood to Tukwila ($1.2 billion)

The list of projects is available here. It does not include funding for the controversial Columbia River Crossing bridge between Oregon and Washington, nor does it include tolls on Interstate 90.

The state’s current gas tax of 37.5 cents a gallon would go up by 4 cents in 2014. It would increase another 4 cents the following year and 3.5 cents in 2016 — bringing the state’s total gas tax to 49 cents a gallon.

Under the proposal, local cities and counties would have an additional way to raise money for transportation by increasing car tab fees from $20 to $40 without having to put it to a vote of the people. The $20 fee must be in place for two years before it can be raised.

The Senate proposal also includes a list of eight reforms from the mostly Republican majority coalition, including transferring sales tax from construction projects to a transportation fund.

The proposal is part of ongoing negotiations between the Senate and House, which put forth its own proposal in June that would have raised gas taxes by 10.5 cents a gallon. It passed the House, but never got a vote in the Senate.

Gov. Jay Inslee has previously said he may call another special session to pass a transportation package if lawmakers can strike a deal. Lawmakers are in Olympia this week for the annual assembly days on Nov. 21 and 22.

The Senate Transportation Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposal at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday. Draft bills are available here.

TVW will carry the meeting live on television and the web.

Categories: transportation

Q&A with the WSDOT program director of the Highway 520 floating bridge

By | September 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

TVW recently toured the construction site on the east side of the Highway 520 floating bridge. The $4 billion dollar megaproject has suffered setbacks that have pushed back the open date by more than a year to 2016.

At the site, TVW interviewed Julie Meredith, who is the SR 520 program director for Washington State Department of Transportation. A segment about the bridge and portions of the interview aired on this week’s edition of  “The Impact” — watch the show here.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

TVW: Can you give us an overview of the project?

Meredith: This project links the Seattle side to the Eastside. It’s a key economic corridor for the region, and one of two key crossings for Lake Washington. It’s very important to serve our economic engines that are Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond. The 520 floating bridge is a vulnerable structure. The current structure was built in the early 1960s. It suffered through the last 50 years. It just celebrated its 50th anniversary, but it has taken a beating from the wind and wave activity on the lake. We’ve done some expensive retrofits in the 1990s to eek out more life from the structure, and at this point we need to replace it so we can have a reliable corridor for commuters.

As a result of state design mistakes, there were cracks discovered in some of the pontoons. Can you explain the issue and the repairs that needed to be done?

Meredith: The issue we experienced last year was when we were post tensioning on the first pontoons. What we saw was cracking, and the cracking extended from the face of the pontoon through the keel slab at the bottom of the pontoon. … This summer, we implemented the design changes we’ve been working on, including adding epoxy injection to cracks that are .006 inches in width. That’s about the side of the width of the paper. … The pontoons — as we’ve been doing the analysis — are strong. What we’re doing is improving the water-tightness for the 75-year design life.

What is the cost estimate to fix the pontoons?

Meredith: In any construction contract, you’re going to have changes. … At this point, we’ve executed and potentially will execute approximately $378 million worth of change orders. We haven’t negotiated some of those change orders. We know that the key change orders in the pontoon repairs will be complete by the end of the year, and we’ll report back on that.

How do you respond to critics who say that the problems have hurt WSDOT when it comes to public trust of taxpayer money?

Meredith: When we experienced the issue in 2012, we communicated the issue to the public right away. We communicated throughout the process, giving the public and legislators an opportunity to hear about the problems, learn how we’re addressing them and move forward. And we’re implementing the design changes now. We’ve been transparent, we’ve managed the issue and we will continue to communicate as we go forward. (more…)

Categories: transportation, TVW

Inslee will call special session if lawmakers can agree on transportation package

By | September 3, 2013 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee said he is prepared to call the state Legislature back for another special session in November if lawmakers can come up with enough votes to pass a transportation package.

“This is a statewide economic issue of congestion,” said Inslee, who warned that the state’s highways, roads and bridges are going to “deteriorate at a rapid rate if we do not act this year.”

Inslee’s remarks came at a joint press conference on Tuesday with King County Executive Dow Constantine in Seattle. King County Metro could face a 17 percent cut in bus service — or one out of five bus routes — if the state does not adopt a revenue package by next year, Inslee said.

“We cannot allow 2014 to pass without an answer to this problem,” Constantine said.

In June, the House approved a $10 billion dollar transportation package that would have raised gas taxes by 10.5 cents. The tax money would have paid for maintaining state’s roads and bridges, as well as funding major new projects like the Columbia River Crossing bridge between Oregon and Washington.

The Senate Majority Coalition did not bring the package up for a vote before the end of session. Many Republicans in the Senate oppose the Columbia River Crossing project because it includes light rail into Vancouver, Washington.

Inslee said Tuesday he’s considering other options for funding the Columbia River Crossing so that it won’t block passage of a transportation package.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom issued a statement in response, saying that the Senate did not vote on a transportation package in June because the House sent a “transportation wish list over to the Senate, but no bond bill ever followed” to pay for the projects.

Tom said any new transportation package must have the support of taxpayers.

The co-chairs of the Senate Transportation Committee, Republican Sen. Curtis King and Democrat Sen. Tracey Eide, have scheduled several “listening tours” this fall to hear from the public on their transportation priorities and concerns.

Watch Tuesday’s press conference below:

On TVW this week: Transpo funding, new episodes of ‘The Impact’ & ‘Inside Olympia’

By | September 2, 2013 | 0 Comments

Here’s what we’re covering at TVW this week:

Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.: Gov. Jay Inslee and King County Executive Dow Constantine will hold a news conference in Seattle to discuss transportation funding. TVW will live webcast the event, and it will be re-broadcast on television at 6 and 9 p.m. that evening.

Wednesday at 10 a.m.: The state Liquor Control Board is expected to take action on the revised proposed rules for legal marijuana. TVW will live webcast the event at this link.

Wednesday at 1 p.m.: The Health Benefit Exchange board is expected to approve health plans that have applied to be part of the state-run exchange. TVW is not able to carry this live, but we will tape it and post it online as soon as possible at this link.

Wednesday at 7 & 10 p.m.: “The Impact” returns from hiatus with new episodes. Host Anita Kissée talks with Gov. Jay Inslee about his new push for transportation funding. Plus, a look at the new money helping more kids go to full-day kindergarten.

Thursday 2:30 p.m.: The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council will release its quarterly economic review. TVW will carry it live on television and the web.

Thursday at 7 & 10 p.m.: “Inside Olympia” returns from hiatus with new episodes. Host Austin Jenkins interviews Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

Thursday at 8 p.m.: TVW will premiere an “Engaged” documentary about the life of Starcia Ague, who received a rare pardon from Gov. Chris Gregoire. Watch a short preview of it on YouTube.

On TVW this week: Transportation cost study, public hearing on marijuana rules

By | August 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

Here’s what will be live on TVW this week:

Tuesday at 10 a.m.: An advisory panel made up of members from the Joint Transportation Committee will meet to discuss how to save money on major transportation projects. It is part of a $325,000 study to identify inefficiencies and recommend ways the state can save money on road and bridge projects.

The group will discuss how construction money is currently spent, the biggest cost drivers, and what needs to be improved (the agenda is here). TVW will broadcast the meeting live on television and the web.

Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.: The Washington State Liquor Control Board will hold a public hearing at the Red Lion Hotel in Olympia about the proposed rules for the legal marijuana industry. The hearing is one of four meetings being held across the state to give the public a chance to weigh in on the rules.

TVW will live webcast the meeting at this link. It will be broadcast on television at a later date.

Categories: Marijuana, transportation, TVW

Skagit River Bridge over Interstate 5 to be renamed for fallen trooper

By | July 30, 2013 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Transportation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to rename the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in honor of Sean M. O’Connell Jr., a state trooper who died after being struck by a truck while working to detour traffic around the collapsed bridge.

State Sen. Kevin Ranker, Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau and Washington State Patrol Captain Jeff Sass appeared before the commission in Seattle on Tuesday to urge them to approve the name change.

Sen. Ranker said renaming the bridge is the “least we can do as citizens and as representatives” to honor O’Connell for his service.

Sass described O’Connell as “an extremely special human” who was a Little League coach for his young children and was selected as Trooper of the Year in 2003.

O’Connell was one of six motorcycle units working detail detour for the bridge in May after a portion of it collapsed into the river, Sass said. An investigation into the traffic crash that killed O’Connell is ongoing, he said.

“We don’t willy nilly name things for people,” said transportation commission chairman Dan O’Neal before voting. “We want to know there’s support from the community. Your story is a moving story and very big part of how we look at this.”

The bridge will be renamed the Trooper Sean M. O’Connell Jr. Memorial Bridge.

TVW is live webcasting the transportation commission meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday — links are available here.

 

Categories: transportation

On TVW this week: Pension investigation, marijuana rules and transportation issues

By | July 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

Here’s what TVW will be covering live this week:

Tuesday at 10 a.m.: TVW will be live on TV and web with the Select Committee on Pension Policy. The committee is scheduled to get an update from the state Department of Retirement Systems on the ongoing investigation into the LEOFF 1 pension system. Earlier this year, Mike Baker of The Associated Press wrote a three-part series about “pension-spiking” abuses in the system.

Wednesday at 11 a.m.: TVW will be live on TV and web with the House Government Accountability & Oversight Committee. The group is holding a work session on the rules for legal marijuana recently approved by the state Liquor Control Board. They will also discuss efforts to prevent liquor theft and underage drinking.

Wednesday at 10 a.m.: TVW will live webcast the Joint Transportation Committee meeting at Centralia College. It will not be broadcast on television live, but it will air on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. They are scheduled to get a report from the Department of Transportation on reduced staffing levels, as well as hear studies on several projects — including the Columbia River Crossing.

Thursday at 9 a.m.: TVW will be live on TV and web with the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program Committee (known as LEAP). The committee is scheduled to consider requests from several state agencies that want program structure changes during the the 2013-15 budget cycle.

TVW is also taping the Washington State Labor Council’s three-day convention in Vancouver from July 25-27. It will not be webcast, but it will air on television the following week.

Categories: Marijuana, transportation, TVW

Transportation tax package fails to pass House

By | June 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

A proposal to raise the state’s gas tax by 10.5 cents failed to pass the House by one vote on Wednesday.

A bill needs 50 votes to pass. The vote was at 49-41, but then a supporter — Democratic Rep. Marko Liias — changed his vote to a “no” so that he could make a motion to reconsider the bill. Only a representative from the “prevailing side” can bring up a bill for reconsideration.

The final vote was 48-42. Seven members were excused, including Democratic Rep. Dean Takko, who is said to be traveling in Asia.

“Now we know who is opposed,” Liias said after the vote. “We know who we need to talk to.”

During debate over the bill, transportation chair Rep. Judy Clibborn said the $10 billion transportation package would create more than 100,000 jobs.

“It’s a jobs package in a big way,” she said.

The package included more than $3 billion for major projects such as the Columbia River Crossing bridge, as well as $1 billion for the maintenance of bridges and highways.

“I really am disappointed,” Clibborn said after the vote.

Several Republicans spoke in opposition to the revenue package during floor debate.

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said that the state would be raising gas taxes on Washington residents during peak travel season.

The proposal would have raised the state’s gas tax by 6 cents in August. The next increase would take place in the summer of 2014.

The only Republican to join with Democrats in voting in favor of the package was Rep. Hans Zeiger. Democrats who voted “no” included Representatives Brian Blake, Hans Dunshee, Kathy Haigh, Chris Hurst, Monica Stonier and Kevin Van De Wege.

Liias made a motion to reconsider the revenue package just before the House adjourned for the day. It is scheduled to return at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Gov. Jay Inslee has previously said he wants the state to adopt a transportation package before the end of session. Inslee’s spokesman David Postman said after the vote: “This is not over.”

Categories: tax, transportation

House debates amendments to transportation tax package

By | June 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

The House debated amendments Tuesday on a transportation revenue package that would raise the gas tax by 10.5 cents a gallon to pay for major projects, such as the Columbia River Crossing and State Route 167/509.

It would also provide funding for public transit, ferries, bicycle and walking paths, bridge preservation and other projects.

Many Republicans oppose light rail on the Columbia River Crossing. Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, introduced an amendment that would remove light rail from the bridge.

“Clark County is not clamoring this project,” Harris said.

Urging a no vote on the amendment, Democratic Rep. Sharon Wylie said that businesses won’t relocate to Vancouver because “they think we’re ridiculous for not connecting to light rail.”

The amendment to remove light rail failed. Another amendment that would have sent the tax package to the ballot for a vote of the people also narrowly failed, 46-45.

The House did not vote on the final bill, instead deferring it for later.

Meanwhile, there’s no announcement of a budget deal as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Categories: tax, transportation

DOT decides on official alternative routes around Skagit Bridge collapse

By | June 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

The state Department of Transportation and cities affected by the Skagit River bridge collapse have agreed on official, long-term alternative routes for drivers attempting to navigate Interstate 5.

Skagit County officials said the routes were decided following a “day of discussion” with engineers and local city representatives.

The alternative routes vary by destination. Drivers headed north on I-5 to Canada will be directed one way, while those going to north to the San Juan Islands will be directed to another route. Those headed south will either be directed to Seattle, or the cities of Burlington and Mt. Vernon.

Here are links to the routes:

I-5 Skagit river Bridge Northbound Detour Routes

I-5 Skagit river Bridge Southbound Detour Routes

WSDOT alternate route map

Categories: transportation

Bridge collapse could have implications for transportation funding, CRC debate

By | May 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

On Monday morning, Sen. Tracey Eide told a crowd gathered for a transportation rally how “scary” it feels to walk across the Columbia River Crossing — something she did once, and would never do again.

Four days later, a span of the Interstate 5 bridge over Skagit River collapsed into the water below.

Eide immediately thought of the Columbia River Crossing. “Then I heard it was the Skagit bridge and that wasn’t even on our radar,” said Eide, who co-chairs the Senate Transportation Committee.

Skagit River Bridge (WSDOT photo)

The bridge collapse comes in the middle of debate over a proposed transportation funding package backed by many Democrats. The proposal would raise gas taxes by 10 cents to pay for a number of major projects, including the controversial Columbia River Crossing bridge between Portland and Vancouver.

“I would hope that naysayers see how important it is that we have a revenue package,” Eide said on Friday.

“This weekend people will be going over bridges and they’ll be wondering, ‘Is this bridge safe?’ I think about how horrible it could have been if the bridge was over a deep body of water with more traffic,” Eide said.

House Transportation Committee chair Rep. Judy Clibborn said Friday that lawmakers are continuing to work on the tax package, and there’s a possibility it could end up on the ballot for voters to decide.

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Categories: transportation

Crowd rallies at Capitol over transportation

By | May 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Rep. Denny Heck and several other elected officials spoke at a rally on the steps of the Capitol on Monday in favor of a transportation funding package.

About 200 people attended the event, many wearing neon safety gear and carrying signs that said: “Do your job so we can do ours,” and “Finish your job.”

The governor has said transportation funding must be a top priority during the current 30-day special session, along with a two-year operating budget and stricter drunk driving laws.

“Now, we’re going to ask legislators to legislate,” Inslee said. He called on lawmakers to pass a package that would fund major transportation projects, fix the state’s crumbling infrastructure and “finish what we started.”

A proposed 10-cent gas tax increase to fund transportation projects passed a House committee during regular session and has support among many House Democrats, but faces opposition from some GOP legislators — especially in the Senate where there are vocal opponents to the controversial Columbia River Crossing project.

The $3.4 billion CRC project would replace the Interstate 5 bridge linking Portland, Ore. and Vancouver, Wash.

Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, said the state “cannot afford to not build this bridge.” Eide said she’s walked across the bridge once — and won’t be doing it again. “That’s one scary bridge,” she said.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said that when he was a state representative 17 years ago, transportation was never a partisan issue. He said he’s hopeful Monday’s rally will spur that type of bipartisanship again.

Constantine talked about the need for transit funding, saying the King County Metro system will face a 17 percent cut in service if the Legislature doesn’t take action this year.

Republican legislators Bruce Dammeier and Hans Zeiger also spoke at the rally, both emphasizing the need to complete Highways 167 and 509.

“Completing those projects are the most important thing we can do for our economy,” Dammeier said.

Congressman Heck lead the crowd on a chant of “Pass it now!” that was repeated several times throughout the rally.

Later in the day, Inslee signed a no-frills transportation budget, but vetoed a section that included $81 million in planning money for the Columbia River Crossing. According to the AP, the governor said there’s no reason to spend the planning money if there’s no state funding for the bridge.

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Categories: transportation