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.