Thursday, December 10, 2009

RAMP’s 2010 State Legislative Priorities

RAMP has developed a list of priorities for the 2010 State Legislature. RAMP’s complete brochure of legislative priorities is available on-line. Coalition partners are encouraged to promote these mutually beneficial projects during the upcoming legislative session.

Key priorities include:

Protect project funding as scheduled
All projects funded within Pierce County via the 2003 Nickel package, the 2005 Transportation Partnership package and the 2009 Recovery and Reinvestment Act must be completed as originally scheduled. Priority projects include:

· I-5 HOV lanes- Construct the funded portion of the I-5 HOV system from the King/Pierce County line to SR 512 and SR 16 to I-5
· SR 167- Complete right-of-way procurement for the full width of the SR 167 corridor including HOV lanes

Extend SR 167
Continue the progress on the SR 167 mega project by developing a comprehensive approach to fund the extension of SR 167 from Puyallup to SR 509 in Tacoma, similar to the process pursued for the SR 520 bridge replacement program.

Fund the second phase of the SR 167 tolling study. Incorporate conclusions from the first phase of the SR 167 tolling study to identify funds to fill the funding gap for design and construction of the extension.

Extend I-5 HOV lanes
· Update project scoping for the extension of the I-5 HOV lanes mega project from S. 38th St. to SR 512
· Begin preliminary project scoping for the extension of I-5 HOV lanes from SR 512 to the Pierce/Thurston County line. The addition of HOV lanes through this section of the I-5 corridor will help mitigate congestion related to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Extend SR 167 HOT lanes
Begin preliminary scoping to extend HOV/HOT lanes to the current terminus of SR 167 in Puyallup.

Improve Local Revenue Sources
Strengthen and expand appropriate revenue sources to meet local transportation needs.

Support Flood Prevention
Contribute to Pierce County flood prevention plans and implementation efforts to protect primary freight and commute routes.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

RAMP Signs Letter Supporting SAFETEA-LU Reauthorization

The Regional Access Mobility Partnership in solidarity with the US Chamber of Commerce, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, hundreds of other local chambers and organizations is urging US Senators and Representatives to reauthorize SAFETEA-LU, the federal transportation legislation.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (MN-08) and Ranking Member John Mica (FL-07), and Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio (OR-04) and Ranking Member John Duncan (TN-02) introduced legislation to reauthorize the federal highway, public transportation and safety programs, officially kicking off the congressional debate. While the 775 page bill is not perfect, it is a good start with a strong emphasis on reform and accountability.

The letter states:
The time to enact a robust, six-year federal surface transportation program authorization is NOW!

There is a big difference between public investment and public spending. And the American people know it. Unlike much government spending, strategic capital investments in our national highway, bridge and public transportation network provide long-lived assets that return value to American families, businesses and the U.S. economy for current and future generations—value far exceeding their initial cost.

Enactment of a multi-year transportation bill is a unique opportunity to address two major national economic challenges by promoting job creation and incentivizing capital investment. Strategic investments in transportation infrastructure can reduce productivity-robbing, energy wasting, emissions creating traffic congestion. They can also reduce health care costs by reducing motor vehicle crashes caused by inadequate road conditions.

Two, blue-ribbon, bipartisan commissions initiated by the Congress in 2005 have provided a consensus blueprint for action and financing. They call for policy principles we embrace: a surface transportation program that is performance-based, transparent and fully accountable to taxpayers, and user financed. And we heartily agree with their conclusion that sufficient revenue must be raised to fund new capital investments in highway and transit capacity to facilitate the movement of people and freight. These investments are absolutely critical to America’s future economic competitiveness.

We readily acknowledge the political challenges associated with financing the next surface transportation program authorization. But the obvious can no longer be ignored. To that end, we pledge to actively support user fee-based revenue solutions, including an increase in the federal motor fuels tax, necessary to fund a six-year investment bill that meets national transportation needs.

Let’s put America back to work and on the move!

Friday, December 04, 2009

RAMP Meeting Highlights Winter Flood Preparations

In light of last year’s winter storms that resulted in miles of road closures and thousands of dollars of lost revenue, Pierce County and WSDOT are planning for the worst case scenario this year. Flooding of the Puyallup, Carbon, White and Nisqually Rivers is a constant concern of the adjacent communities. Pierce County’s Surface Water Management Division developed a map describing the impacts of 100 year flood events, which have been occurring more frequently.

Flooding of the Puyallup River is of particular concern to the Port of Tacoma, the cities of Sumner and Fife and the thousands of commuters and freight service companies that depend on I-5 access daily. Pierce County estimates that the levies on the lower Puyallup River require $150 million in capital investments. The potential financial impact of Puyallup flooding is estimated to cost the community $1.3 billion.

In response, Pierce County has established the Puyallup River Basin Executive Taskforce. The aim of the taskforce, comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders, is to develop a plan and a funding strategy to minimize the impacts flooding along the Puyallup River.

Similarly, WSDOT has developed solutions to two major flooding problems in Pierce County. In Sumner, along Traffice Ave. near by storm water pipes were retrofitted to more effectively drain roadway run off. Near SR. 161 the banks of the Mashel River were armored to prevent erosion and minimize flooding.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Puget Sound Traffic Getting Better, but Worst in Nation, Studies Find

Two reports released this week suggest that traffic congestion in the Puget Sound region is getting better, but it’s still the worst congestion in the country.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation’s 2009 Annual Congestion Report (pdf, 1.7 mb ), in 2008 drivers in Washington state experienced (per capita) one hour less congestion compared to 2006. The report credits high gas prices, the economic downturn, and successful congestion fighting strategies with the decreases. While the news is good in the short-term, WSDOT predicts congestion will return as the economy improves. A summary of the findings is available on the WSDOT website.

Although congestion is down, that doesn’t mean commutes are good. A study by TomTom, a global positioning company found that Seattle has the worst traffic congestion of the 30 largest US cities, with 43 percent of the city’s roads having “heavy delays,” the Puget Sound Business Journal reports.. The company ranked cities as most to least congested according to how fast cars could travel on the street network. Traffic was defined as congested if drivers could travel at only 70 percent or less of the posted speed limit, and an average hour-long commute included 20 minutes or more of significant delays, according to TomTom.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Murray Morgan Bridge - Back to the City?

Last week the Tacoma City Council’s Environment and Public Works Committee made a recommendation to pass a turnback agreement wherein ownership of the 95-year old Murray Morgan Bridge would pass from the State of Washington to the City of Tacoma.

Originally named the 11th Street Bridge, in 1957 the 1,748 foot long steel-truss structure that connects downtown Tacoma to the Port of Tacoma was re-decked. The bridge and the corresponding E. 11th Street were designated as SR 509. At that time, ownership of the bridge was transferred from the City of Tacoma to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Since that time the Murray Morgan Bridge has deteriorated and in 2007 WSDOT bridge engineers determined the bridge must close to all vehicular traffic, including emergency vehicles, to ensure public safety.

Advocates for the historic bridge argue that it is a landmark and should be rehabilitated. In response the City hired a consultant to develop a rehabilitation plan would allow the bridge to carry traffic. The consultant concluded that a comprehensive rehabilitation would cost approximately $80 million dollars. With just under $40 million for this project in the WSDOT budget, this leaves a $40 million shortfall that the City is trying to close.

To move forward with this plan the City has agreed to reassume responsibility for the bridge and its maintenance. According to the turnback agreement, the state would agree to provide the City with the available balance of the Puyallup Tribal Settlement Account, approximately $10.8 million and $26.2 million in federal funding, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

According to the Tacoma Daily Index, the final turnback agreement still needs to be approved by the full City Council.

The Tacoma Daily Index, “Tacoma closer to owning Murray Morgan Bridge.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Building a Cross-Base Highway

Pierce County's long awaited and continually delayed Cross-Base Highway keeps looking for a solution to a need long overdue. For a project that started with a donation of right-of-way worth millions of dollars by Ft. Lewis, that head start in funding hasn't made much progress against other state-wide projects that keep bumping the Cross-Base Highway.

As Fort Lewis is a work site that has gained 13,000 workers in the last demi-decade and seen a daily increase in thousands of vehicle trips, soldiers taking housing outside the post are continuing to seek housing in Thurston County as closer Pierce County housing is inaccessible via the congestion along the Pacific Ave.-SR 512-I-5 route, located in Parkland-Spanaway. Who hasn't noticed the increase in congestion on I-5 south of the post as soldiers commute back and forth to Thurston County?

But is our challenge so unique that we must create a solution, or is experience available elsewhere. Of course! We are not unique! Others have solved this problem!

Mayor John Cook, City of El Paso, TX and Charles H. "Chuck" Berry, El Paso District Engineer, Texas Department of Transportation, recently shared with nation-wide delegates at the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA), Department of Defense , how El Paso responded to the transportation demands of military (job) growth.

El Paso and Texas built a 7.5 miles freeway across Fort Bliss and an airport. This was a $200 million construction project accomplished by a public-private partnership. El Paso and Texas cooperated with the private sector to build and finance this highway (pictured above). Using what they called "pass through tolls," the State of Texas pays to the private sector vendor a toll based on the number of cars that use the highway. For mutual protection, payments will not fall below $10 million nor rise above $12 million.

Today's state (and local) budget climate gives all parties an instant excuse for not spending $10 million in capital expenses each year. But alternatives do exist. For one example the Stimulus Bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, contains the Build America Bonds, which provides a federal subsidy to state and local bonds.

Others have taken notice. Mayor Efrain Valdez, Del Rio, TX, rose from the conference floor to endorse the Texas public-private partnership in road building and announce his city is doing the same thing.

Monday, November 09, 2009

PSRC Releases Opinion Poll on Regional Transportation

The Puget Sound regional Council recently released the findings of a public opinion poll on regional transportation. The poll was conducted to enhance public input for the Transportation 2040 plan. The telephone survey polled 1,200 randomly selected individuals from King (600 respondents), Pierce (200 respondents), Snohomish (200 respondents) and Kitsap (200 respondents) counties.

The survey concluded that Pierce County residents:

· Value maintaining/preserving current transportation system
· Addressing congestion is very important
· Safety is highly important
· More likely to support electronic tolling

More information on Transportation 2040 is available in a previous post: RAMP reviews PSRC's Transporation 2040

Pierce County Projects to be Included in T2040 Plan

This Thursday (11/12/09) the PSRC Transportation Policy Board will recommend the Transportation 2040 Proposed Preferred Alternative to the PSRC’s Executive Board.

The Pierce County projects to be included in the constrained portion of the plan can be viewed here. These projects include extending SR 167 to the Port of Tacoma, extending the SR 167 HOT lanes to the current terminus in Puyallup and building SR 704 the Cross-base Highway.

More information on the T2040 process is available in the previous post: RAMP reviews PSRC's Transporation 2040.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

WSDOT Survey Opens for Your Opinion

The Washington State Department of Transportation's mission is to keep people and business moving by operating and improving the state's transportation systems vital to the taxpayers and communities.

They would like to know your opinion about how they're doing. Please take a few minutes to complete this brief survey. Your feedback will help them learn more about how they can improve their performance.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Congress Extends SAFETEA-LU

Thanks fto WSDOT for this update:

On Thursday, Congress passed legislation to extend SAFETEA-LU, and to continue
funding USDOT, through December 18th. The President should sign the bill into
law sometime in the next two days.

The Senate may attempt to pass a 6 month extension of SAFETEA-LU next week. The House Transportation Committee chair continues to oppose that.

For more information on
this and other related topics visit:

Friday, October 23, 2009

SAFTEA-LU Reauthorization Update

Thanks to WSDOT for passing on this update on the SAFTEA-LU Reauthorization. Learn more about federal funding on their blog:

Reports are sketchy but apparently on Wednesday some Senators attempted, unsuccessfully, a legislative maneuver to pass an 18-month extension of SAFETEA-LU. “Hotlining” is a process in which Senators are asked if they would object to taking up a bill and passing it without debate or amendment. If so much as one Senator objects, the legislation must be scheduled for a floor debate and vote. It’s a process often used for non-controversial bills, and sometimes used to flush out potential objections and amendments.

At least one Senator objected, almost certainly Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who supports a shorter extension (e.g., 12-month). Voinovich is retiring in November 2010, and may want the shorter extension so that he can influence the longer-term bill and funding for Ohio projects.

It’s possible the Senate could debate the bill next week (Oct 26-30). But there would likely be filibusters from Voinovich and others, and it’s unclear if the Senate could pass the bill next week. At any rate, it’s hard to see how a final extension bill could be negotiated by the House and Senate and sent to the President by November 1, unless there’s a last minute agreement on a shorter-term extension.

Best guess at this point is we get another one-month extension, along with a one-month extension of 2010 transportation appropriations spending.

Friday, October 16, 2009

WSDOT Takes Truck Ops Survey

The Washington State Department of Transportation is requesting your input regarding impediments to the operation of trucks in the State of Washington.

The information gathered from this short survey will be used as part of the Highway System Plan.

The Truck Corridor Survey consists of (3) questions. Please take a moment to share your input with them. Click here to access the survey.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

RAMP reviews PSRC's Transporation 2040

Wednesday a representative from the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) briefed RAMP on the preliminary preferred alternative for Transportation 2040, the region’s long-range transportation planning document.

The presentation is available here.

PSRC staff is developing the preferred alternative based on public comments received on the DEIS this summer. The PSRC’s transportation policy Board comprised of elected officials and stakeholders from King, Pierce, Kitsap and Snohomish counties is scheduled to vote to recommend the preferred alternative to the PSRC Executive Board on November 12th. The Executive Board will adopt the preferred alternative on December 3rd.

For more information go to the PSRC’s project website

Lakewood Updates RAMP on OEA Congestion Study

At last Wednesday's RAMP meeting Dan Penrose from the City of Lakewood updated the group on preliminary findings from the I-5 congestion study the City of Lakewood has been designated to administer on behalf of the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) at the Department of Defense.

The presentation is available here.

In January 2009, OEA awarded the City a $450,000 planning assistance grant to study congestion on Interstate 5 through Ft. Lewis. The grant funds efforts to refine computer traffic models and determine which transportation alternatives would best address the challenges in the Interstate 5 corridor adjacent to Ft. Lewis and McChord AFB.

The 18 month study, closely coordinated with the Washington State Department of Transportation, Ft. Lewis, McChord AFB and other regional stakeholders, considers which strategies hold the most promise for reducing the congestion drivers experience on I-5 as a result of the increased base population.

More information on the study is available on the City of Lakewood website and the WSDOT project page.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Joint Transportation Committee Evaluates Alternative Funding Options

Traditional sources of revenue for transportation, namely sales and gas taxes no longer keep pace with the demand for transportation investments. In response, the Joint Transportation Committee of the Washington State Legislature has commissioned a study to identify viable funding alternatives. The goal of the study is to develop a package of funding tools the legislature can consider to meet transportation funding objectives.

- The Evaluation Framework and alternatives being considered can be found here.

- A summary of the goals and process is available in a September 30th, 2009 presentation to the Joint Transportation Committee.

For more information please go to the Joint Transportation Committee’s website.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Candidates Appear at Transportation Forum

You’re invited!

Tacoma Mayoral/City Council Candidates’ Transportation and Land-Use Forum

On Thursday, October 1st, please join an exciting group of co-hosting organizations for a lively evening debate as we pose questions about transportation and land-use to the Tacoma City Council and Mayoral candidates.

When: Thursday, Oct 1st, 6:30-8:30 p.m.*
Where: Carwein Auditorium, Keystone Building - UWT

Event Co-Hosts:
Transportation Choices Coalition, The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, University of Washington Urban Studies Program, Futurewise, Cascade Bicycle Club, Tacoma Wheelman’s Bicycle Club, Tacoma Sun, Cascade Land Conservancy, Exit 133.

* Approximately two weeks after this event until election day, the Forum will be available for 24-hour viewing on Click! Cable TV’s local section of On Demand.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ramp Takes Leap

Last week, the spectrum of funding partners took shovels in hand for the official groundbreaking for the Lincoln Avenue Grade Separation.

Photo: Kathy Tomandl, Port of Tacoma

Nowadays, no ONE builds transportation infrastructure. And last Friday's ceremony demonstrated the collaborative effort that results in success.

As the Port says on their website: Although local in nature, this project offers economic benefits for both Washington state and the nation. Tacoma is a gateway port, and much of the cargo moving through here is bound for inland markets such as Chicago and New York.

Upon completion, the grade separation will significantly improve rail and road efficiency and will also enhance air quality.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Most Popular Pavings - Good Intentions

Paula Hammond, Secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), was featured at today's Transportation Club of Tacoma meeting.

Her presentation could be considered a lament. She recounted her first day of the job, when the Milwaukee bridge collapsed that lead directly to WSDOT's decision to close the Murray Morgan Bridge. Then, she recalled the first (of three) floodings of I-5 that lead to miles of truck-trailers queued with no alternative routes. And, she talked of a funding tie between cents per gallon and a declining gas sales/miles driven both because of consumer behavior changes and recessionary responses. And, let's not even get started on the state's ferries!

She did point to the $10 billion of projects just in the Puget Sound area, with another $5 billion in other parts of the state. Of 391 projects at the beginning, 183 are completed, 82 are under construction and 22 are about to go into construction. For anyone who wants to check up on their particular interest in a project(s), go to their website.

Q's from the audience covered a wide range of topics, but the most popular subject seemed to be SR-167. In response, Hammond noted that the corridor lost its funding proposal with the failure of Proposition 1. Now that transit has passed its expansion measure, the region is left without addressing its road future. The legislature has funded a tolling study for the completion of SR-167, to measure revenue potential and traffic diversions. SR-167 remains a hot topic, not because of the HOT Lanes tolling in the HOV lanes, but because of the new threat to flooding from failures in the Howard Hanson Dam.

All this and more makes one wish for debates of old when road surfaces were evaluated for quieter performance versus cost-effective permanency.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Lincoln Ave. Overpass Breaks Ground- You're invited

Please join Senator Patty Murray and the Port of Tacoma Commission and staff as we “lift” Lincoln Avenue. It took over a decade of workbut thanks to our many transportation partners, the final phase of the Lincoln Avenue Grade Separation will finally begin!

Some people would call this a Groundbreaking, but we call it a Roadraising!

Friday, September 18, 2009
1:00 to 1:45 p.m.

Cookies and beverages served.

From Interstate 5 take the Portland Avenue exit(Northbound Exit #134 or Southbound Exit #135). At Portland Avenue, head north to Lincoln Avenue (0.7 miles).At the light, take a right onto Lincoln Avenue and proceedapproximately 0.4 miles to the parking area.

Please consider flat-soled shoes.

RSVP by email to

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Call for Federal Transportation Reform

At a Seattle forum last week the National Transportation Policy Project (NTPP) made the case for an overhaul of federal transportation policy. Their case comes in the form of a report, Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy, the product of a bipartisan group of 26 politically and professionally diverse members. The report proposes five key goals for future national transportation policy: economic growth, national connectivity, metropolitan accessibility, energy security and environmental protection, and safety.

Based on these goals, the NTPP report contends that performance measures should be used to determine future federal funding allocation to state transportation agencies. While the report proposes that 67% of federal funding remain formula based, the other 33% would be competitively based on the performance of states’ transportation systems. As part of this performance determination, the group also calls for increased investment in Intelligent Transportation Systems, or systems embedded in transportation infrastructure that monitor the system and provide critical data to decision-makers and citizens.

The NTPP pitched their report to an audience of approximately 150 in the transportation field, including numerous state transportation heavy weights such as Paula Hammond, Secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation and Charlie Howard, Transportation Planning Director for the Puget Sound Regional Council. Joni Earl, Sound Transit CEO, offered her eloquent and insightful thoughts on NTPP's recommendations during her keynote address, suggesting increased consideration of multimodal transportation in the NTPP's proposed goals and performance measures.

The NTPP’s report has been and will continue to be circulated on Capital Hill in the next 12 to 18 months of debate leading up to the next Federal Transportation Authorization Bill. While the current report is a finished product, NTPP representatives stressed throughout the forum that the conversation regarding federal transportation reform is ongoing and far from over.

Take a look at the NTPP's report here

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pierce County Community Celebrates Cross Base

Congressman Adam Smith, Representatives Becker and Campbell, County Executive Pat McCarthy and representatives from the offices of Governor Gregoire and Congressman Norm Dicks, among others were on hand yesterday to celebrate the completion of Project 1 of SR 704, the Cross Base Highway.

The ribbon cutting for Project 1 celebrates the completion of a project nearly 20-years in the making- the first phase of a planned six-mile, multi-lane highway stretching across the Fort Lewis and McChord military bases between SR7 and I-5. Project 1 widened a three-quarter mile stretch of Spanaway Loop to five lanes, added dual right-turn lanes from Spanaway Loop Road to southbound SR7 and dual left-turn lanes from northbound SR 7 to Spanaway Loop Road.

The remaining three Cross Base Highway projects will be completed as funding becomes available. Once completed, the new limited access highway will improve access for residents and freight in South Pierce County.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Crossbase Highway- Project 1 Complete!

Please join WSDOT Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond and County Executive Pat McCarthy in celebrating the completion of Project 1 of the Cross-Base Highway – Spanaway Loop Road to SR 7.

When: 10 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009
Where: The cul-de-sac at the end of 175th Court, Spanaway WA

Project 1 connects Spanaway Loop Road to SR 7, drastically improving safety and mobility. A new dual right-turn lane from Spanaway Loop Road to southbound SR 7 is already easing back-ups and improving safety during peak travel times.

The SR 704 Cross-base Highway is divided into five independent projects. Construction on Project 1, Spanaway Loop Rd to SR 7, began in July 2008. The four remaining projects are in the design phase. Go to for more information.

Directions to the event:
From SR 512, take the second exit to south SR 7/Pacific Avenue.
Travel south on SR 7/Pacific Avenue for 4.4 miles.
Turn right at 174th Street South
Turn left at 4th Avenue South
Turn right on 176th Street south and follow the noise wall to the end of the cul-de-sac.
Please RSVP to Lisa Copeland, WSDOT Communications, (360) 357-2789 or

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pierce County’s HOV Lane Construction Begins!

I-5 reduced to one lane in Fife for HOV widening project

From WSDOT News:
FIFE – If your Saturday night plans include traveling north on I-5 from Tacoma to Seattle, be ready for backups or, better yet, adjust your plans.

Crews on the I-5 HOV widening project through Fife begin closing lanes at 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22. By 11 p.m., a triple-lane closure will be in place, leaving just the inside lane open to traffic.

There will be workers and equipment on the freeway, so please stay alert and drive cautiously through the work zone. Crews plan to begin reopening lanes by 8 a.m. Sunday, and have all four lanes open to traffic by 10 a.m. Sunday.

The lane closures allow crews to restripe a three-mile stretch of northbound I-5. The revised striping narrows each lane by a foot (from 12 feet to 11 feet) and shifts traffic away from the median to create work space for the widening project.

The I-5 Port of Tacoma Road to King County Line HOV project widens both directions of I-5 from four to five lanes from the Port of Tacoma Road to the King/Pierce county line. The two additional lanes extend the I-5 HOV network south from King County, three miles into Pierce County.

Construction, funded in part by the 2003 gas tax package, also includes more than $35 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Online project information:

Contact: Rumina Suafoa, WSDOT Project Engineer, 253-534-3100
Jamie Swift, WSDOT Communications, 360-507-4261

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pierce County's Transportation Plan Update Delayed

From Pierce County: The County Council recently conducted several study sessions regarding the update to Pierce County's 20-Year Transportation Plan. Based upon the Council and departmental input received during those study sessions, the schedule for the Transportation Plan Update (TPU) has been modified to align with the 2011 Pierce County Comprehensive Plan update. This alignment will result in the adoption of the TPU being delayed approximately 18 to 24 months and will enable the TPU to accurately reflect the land use, population, employment, and other policy assumptions of an updated Comprehensive Plan.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

2010 Federal Transportation Appropriations

The House passed its 2010 transportation spending bill. Here is the draft list of project earmarks for Washington State . The number of earmarks continues to decline compared to previous years.

Highway programs would receive a 1% increase, transit funding would increase 3.3%, safety program funding would increase 1.3%, and aviation funding would increase 3.3 %. High Speed rail funding is penciled in at $4 billion, an increase over the President’s request of $1 billion. However, until Congress replenishes the Highway Trust fund, those spending levels cannot be achieved.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

State and Federal Legislators and Staff to Discuss Puget Sound Transportation

This summer transportation advocacy orgaization, Transportation Choices Coalilition has hosted a series of Town Hall meetings entitled, Visioning the Puget Sound Region's Transportation Future

In May, a local panel of experts identified the primary regional transportation challenges. In June, they discussed a few exciting opportunities to address those challenges. In August, they're pulling out all the stops, with Town Hall Part III - Perspectives from the State and Federal Level

Join the all-star panel of legislators and policy staff for a discussion on what it will take at the federal and state level to address our transportation challenges. Get an insight into their vision for the region's transportation future and find out what their plans are to make it happen.

Join us for a special discussion with our panelists:
Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, 10th Legislative District, Chair of the Washington State Senate Transportation CommitteeRepresentative

Representative Judy Clibborn, 41st Legislative District, Chair of the Washington State House Transportation Committee

Sheila Babb, Deputy State Director, Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

Jennifer Ziegler, Executive Policy Advisor on Transportation, Office of Governor Christine Gregoire

WHEN: Friday August 7, 12:00pm - 1:30pm
WHERE: Bertha Knight Landes Room, Seattle City Hall, 5th Avenue between Cherry and James St. (please note change in venue)
As always, feel free to bring your lunch.

This townhall series is brought to you byTransportation Choices Coalition, Futurewise, WashPIRG, Sierra Club Cascade Chapter, Bicycle Alliance of Washington, Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Transit Blog, Feet First, Commute Seattle and Zipcar

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Funding the Fast Track

CQ Politics reports today that the House has yielded to the Senate and Administration in the tussel over funding for the Highway Trust Fund.

At issue was Cong. James Oberstar, Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who wished a six-year authorization for $500 billion when Congress returns in the fall. To that end, he had proposed an interim $3 billion.

The Administration said $7 billion is needed to keep paying states through fiscal (September) 2009, and an additional $20 billion through an 18-month extension.

As Washington State knows about its similarly sourced motor fuels tax on gallonage, the fund has fallen as motorists drive less because of higher prices. The allocation will come from the feds’ general fund.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The journey begins: Link light rail opens for service this Saturday


Link light rail opens for passenger service between downtown Seattle and Tukwila on Saturday, July 18, with free rides all weekend before moving to regular paid service on Monday. Here’s what riders can expect during opening weekend.

Inaugural ribbon cutting
The Link inaugural ribbon cutting happens on the plaza at Mt. Baker Station on Saturday morning at 8:20 a.m. Immediately prior to the ceremony, news media are invited to join the mayors of Seattle and Tukwila on the station platform as their trains arrive carrying representatives from their respective cities.

After the ceremony, ticket-holders for the two inaugural trains (one northbound and one southbound) will move to the platform and board the trains. The majority of inaugural ride ticket holders are members of the public who received tickets through radio giveaways and other promotions.

Schedule, service levels opening weekend
The free opening weekend light rail service will operate with special hours:
Saturday - 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday – 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Trains will depart each station about every 7-1/2 minutes throughout the day. Sound Transit has made provisions for a high volume of riders on the opening weekend; lines are expected. The number of riders picked up at each station will be limited to a predetermined number to preserve capacity for passengers to board at other stations. Each launch weekend train will carry about 350 riders, including standees.

All riders must deboard upon reaching one of the line’s termini (Westlake for northbound trains and Tukwila for southbound trains). Upon reaching a terminus, riders can wait in line again to return via light rail, or choose the potentially quicker option of bypassing the light rail line and returning via free shuttle buses. Special shuttle buses will run along the route opening weekend and stop at every station. All rides are ADA accessible.

What services will be available at stations?
Each station will feature a welcome portal staffed by Sound Transit to provide information about wait times and answer questions about opening weekend and regular service.

Portable restrooms will be provided at each station, along with family-friendly acoustic entertainment at all stations. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from nearby local restaurants and stores. There will be a food vendor at Tukwila International Boulevard Station.

PLEASE NOTE: Free connector buses from Tukwila to Sea-Tac International Airport will be available from July 20 through the opening of direct light rail service to the airport in December 2009. However, the connector buses will not be in service on the opening weekend.

Expect crowds
While Sound Transit is not making a specific prediction for the number of riders on the opening weekend, provisions are in place to manage a significant turnout. In addition to the start of Link service on July 18, about 60,000 fans expected to attend a noon Sounders FC soccer match at Qwest Field. The Bite of Seattle at the Seattle Center will also draw about 450,000 people over the weekend.

Getting to the stations
There is no parking at Link stations in Seattle, and parking at Tukwila will be extremely limited. Riders are encouraged to bus, walk or ride their bicycle to a station. Bicyclists are encouraged to leave their bikes at special staffed "bike corrals" that will be available on opening weekend. For a list of transit centers and bus routes that can connect you with downtown Seattle on July 18 and 19, visit For more information about all Sound Transit services and help planning your entire trip, visit

More information
For detailed maps and much more information on opening weekend and regular service see:

Follow us on Twitter
For up-to-the-second information during opening weekend events follow Sound Transit on Twitter at Twitter@ST_TravelLight. We’ll tweet all day about which stations have the shortest lines, what’s happening at the stations and behind-the-scenes updates. Twitter updates will also be posted at

CONTACT: Bruce Gray—(206) 398-5069 or
Geoff Patrick—(206) 398-5313 or
Linda Robson—(206) 398-5149 or

-- Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound. --

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Sound Transit Parking Pricing Study

Starting this summer Sound Transit will engage in a 14-month analysis to identify, analyze, evaluate and recommend strategies to effectively manage increasing demand for parking at Sound Transit’s transit stations and park-and-ride facilities.

The parking pricing study will focus on the feasibility and implications of instituting parking charges along the South Sounder Commuter Rail Line between Tacoma and Seattle, as well as how charging for parking would integrate into the Agency’s the region’s priorities for transit system use and access.

The stations and park and ride facilities that will be reviewed in the analysis include: Kent, Auburn, Sumner, Tacoma Dome and possibly South Tacoma and Lakewood.

Review the scope of work and timeline for the analysis here.

Fife Valley Avenue Construction

Valley Avenue East between 70th Avenue East and Freeman Road in Fife will be closed this fall for a period of 50 working days to improve the route. The road will be open for access to residences and businesses. Other traffic will be detoured to nearby streets such as Freeman and Levee roads. The overall budget for this phase of the project is about $24.8 million and is scheduled for completion in late 2010.

Review details of the project and the detour routes here. For more information about the project please visit the City of Fife’s website

Monday, June 29, 2009

Projects Approved by the Pierce County Regional Council


On June 18, the Pierce County Regional Council adopted recommendations from its Transportation Coordinating Committee (TCC) for allocating the $14,032,798 of Federal Transportation Funds allocated to Pierce County by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC).

Listed below are the projects recommended for funding:

· TAC-36 Portland Ave from E. 38th St. to E. 56th St. $900,000
· SUM-30 East Valley Highway Resurfacing $200,000
· FIR-7 S 19th /Columbia St Grind & Overlay $570,900
· PC-21 Orville Road E - Orting Kapowsin Highway to BR #5175-C $520,164

· TAC-38 Stadium Way $2,950,000
· SUM-31 Traffic Fryar Avenue & Main Street Intersection Improvements $2,118,593
· TAC-35 So Tacoma Way Corridor Multimodal Improvement Project $ 100,000
· FIF-6 70th Ave E R/W, 20th Street Intersection to 2900 Block $ 476,441
· LAK-13 Bridgeport Way - Steilacoom Blvd to 83rd St $ 750,000

· PT-25 Shuttle Vehicle Replacement $1,837,613

· TAC-37 2011 Sidewalk Reconstruction Project $ 374,700
· TAC-39 Historic Water Ditch Trail $1,195,000
· LAK-12 100th St Gravelly Lake Dr to 59th Ave $ 867,000
· UP-40 Mildred/67th Avenue Improvements $ 472,387

· PC-24 Transportation Options $ 700,000


The above projects must still be approved by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). The PSRC’s Transportation Policy Board will review the list on July 9th. The Executive Board is scheduled to review the list on July 25th.

The TCC will next recommend a list of contingency projects for PCRC approval. The next meeting of the PCRC will be on July 16, 2009.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Balancing Trips and Housing

HUD reports that low-income families spend a disproportionate amount of their income on transportation-related expenses, as they often trade shorter commutes for the reduced housing costs found in outlying areas.

Creating affordable housing close to public transit facilities can increase overall housing affordability (and reduce the cost of living) for low- and moderate-income families. A report from the Center for Transit Oriented Development, Tools for Mixed-Income TOD, discusses resources and strategies that local governments can bring to bear when integrating mixed-income housing within transit-oriented developments (TOD).

For detailed descriptions of tools and best practices designed to promote mixed-income TOD, please view the report in its entirety.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009


Business and labor have joined forces to support transportation funding, offer suggestions for reform.

Congress approved and President Bush signed HR 3, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) on August 10, 2005.

SAFETEA-LU is a $286.5 billion highway and mass transit bill aimed at enhancing safety, economic productivity, economic growth, and reducing traffic congestion and pollution.

SAFETEA-LU will sunset on September 30, 2009, and Congress is beginning the arduous task of determining how to revitalize this important transportation funding measure in the next reauthorization cycle.

Recently, the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released a study citing “bottom line” funding needs for U.S. Highways and mass transit systems at a whopping $240.5 billion dollars per year.

Congressman James Oberstar, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation Infrastructure, recently discussed a $450 billion dollar, six-year bill; however, it remains unclear how the other committees (namely Ways & Means) will decide to pay for that. To put it in perspective, let me remind you that the current authorization is $286.5 billion dollars over the five-year funding life of the program.

There is no question our nation’s transportation infrastructure is broken. We have not been investing enough money in roads, bridges and transit to maintain these systems, let alone build capacity. But increased funding is not the only answer. Long-term planning and investments in transportation must be a priority, but any proposed legislation must also provide reforms to ensure money is used for needed projects and not wasteful spending. It is critical that we provide significant revenues tied to fulfilling the federal responsibility in meeting the national interest and maintenance of a user-fee-based trust fund protected by budgetary firewalls.

As Congress looks toward reauthorization of funding from the Highway Trust Fund, the Americans for Transportation Mobility coalition, comprised of representatives from business, labor and transportation sectors have weighed in with some guiding principles for reform:

  • Focus on National Needs – A strong federal role built on national needs stemming from interstate commerce, international trade policies, interstate passenger travel, emergency preparedness, national defense, and global competitiveness.
  • Require Accountability – Project approval and funding must be linked to economic benefits and performance-based outcomes.
  • Encourage Private Investment and Financing – The federal government should encourage project financing and delivery approaches that attract private investment within an appropriate federal framework.
  • Eliminate Wasteful Spending – Limit earmarks that are not related to transportation infrastructure, if they do not address the goals of federal transportation policy, or they have limited or no national benefit.
Guest Blogger: Renee Radcliff Sinclair, executive director of Congressional & Public Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Cash for Clunkers

NASCAR may no longer have the fastest track. The House may vote as early as next Tuesday on a bill to provide a cash-for-clunkers trade-in proposal.

The bill is expected to be considered under suspension of the rules, a fast-track procedure barring amendments and requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. This updated version of an earlier bill is an amendment to the climate change bill (HR 2454). A matching bill (S 1135) has been introduced in the Senate and may be added an amendment to a tobacco regulation bill (HR 1256).

These authorizations are being complemented by House and Senate appropriators adding ~$2 billion to the fiscal 2009 supplemental war funding bill (HR 23346).

Consumers would receive a voucher for up to $4,500 to purchase or lease a new, fuel-efficient vehicle (car, SUV or truck).

The old car must get <= 18 mpg and receive $3,500 for an improvement of 4 mpg or $4,500 for an improvement of 10 mpg.

For a light-duty truck or SUV, the old vehicle must get <= 18 mpg and the purchaser will get $3,500 for a 2 mpg improvement and $4,500 for 5 mpg more. The rationale:
  • Helping the auto industry and dealers
  • Helping the Rust Belt
  • Helping the nation's economy
  • Getting cleaner air
  • Getting better fuel economy in the nation's vehicle fleet
  • Lessening dependence on imported oil
Interested? Check out old car and new car mpg ratings here.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Bedding Down with BNSF

In this short video, BNSF shows you how it is taking advantage of track operating windows to update bridges, signals and track, and upgrade technology to further increase velocity. They report that more than half of their year's capital plan is focused on improving the railroad's infrastructure.

Photo is NOT linked.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gregoire Vetos Transit Bill

Joe Turner of The News Tribune reported today on Governor Gregoire's veto of a bill that would have provided more funding for transit agencies to effectively respond to growing transit ridership.

On the TNT's Political Buzz blog Turner wrote:

Supporters of public transit are none too happy with Gov. Chris Gregoire after she decided earlier this month to veto a provision to make it easier for transit agencies to collect more taxes from the public.

That includes the sponsor of the transit-funding proposal, Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-Covington.
"Gregoire is such a major disappointment," Simpson said in an e-mail last week, right after the governor vetoed a portion of Senate Bill 5433. "While she is chauffered around in her black limo and on her private airplane, people who can't afford a car will be struggling to find a ride on a bus. No problem for her though. Sad."

The provision that Gregoire vetoed would have allowed transit boards to ask voters to raise their vehicle registration fees by as much as $20 a year to pay for bus service. The governor said local governments already have that authority. Besides, she added, she didn't want the Legislature to get ahead of itself. The budget provides money to conduct a study on alternative sources of transportation funding, she noted.

Transit advocates say those reasons are pretty lame.

Although it's true local governments can create transportation benefit districts and raise up to $100 per vehicle (with a public vote) those are for mostly for cities and counties, and the process is cumbersome.

"It is nearly useless for transit," Simpson said.

Andrew Austin, policy associate for Transportation Choices Coalition, said transit agencies are seeing their sales tax collections decline just as the demand for bus service is rising.

It's also ironic that Gregoire would issue an executive order to push ahead with policies aimed at reducing how much people drive -- vehicle miles traveled -- while cutting options for transit, he said.

"Reducing VMT per capital is going to be hard to do without more transit, and transit service is falling off a cliff because of decreasing funding," he said.

The thrust of SB 5433 was to give cities and counties more flexibility in how they use their existing sales and property taxes, basically letting them use the money to avoid laying off existing workers instead of having to hire brand-new workers.

Gregoire appears to be at leasts partially accommodating Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee. Haugen and Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, both voted against the bill and later urged the governor to veto those parts. They cited the very reasons that Gregoire did in her veto.

The governor left intact a another transit provision, one that will let the King County Council raise as much as 7.5 cents per $1,000 in property values to provide as much as $30 million a year for Metro Transit. That tax increase could be done without a public vote.

This is the answer I got from Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-Covington, when I asked him whether the governor had vetoed just the $20-per-vehicle tax for transit or the property tax for King County Metro Transit, or both.

Simpson sponsored the language that would have made it easier for transit districts to raise money for bus service, with a public vote.

She vetoed just the $20 congestion reduction tax. She cited the TBD (transit benefit district) as a reason and a study of future transportation funding options as her reason. The $20 voter approved tax was the only hope to stem large cuts in service across the state. Because of the way the TBD statute is written, it is nearly useless for transit. Not only is the money not dedicated to transit in TBD, to enact it requires a huge degree of cooperation among counties and cities and little financial reward for that cooperation. It's why there are no TBDs in the state. The transportation funding study doesn't mention transit and was meant for roads only. Attached is her veto message.

Here is the governor's veto message.

Here is the letter in which Sens. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, and Chris Marr, D-Spokane, urge the governor to veto the transit provisions.

Here is the final bill report on Senate Bill 5433, which includes the effect of the governor's veto.

Friday, May 22, 2009

National Maritime Day May 22 Proclamation

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 20, 2009


- - - - - - -


Americans have long looked to the sea as a source of security and prosperity. Bounded by two oceans and the Gulf of Mexico, and criss-crossed by a myriad of inland waterways, America's destiny as a maritime nation was a story foretold.

The Merchant Marine took up arms alongside the Continental Navy to help defeat the British Navy during the American Revolution. Since then, they have served bravely as the United States has faced threats ranging from war to piracy, and our seafaring fleet has proven instrumental in protecting our safety. In times of conflict and crisis, the Armed Forces rely on the Merchant Marine's sealift capability to transport critical equipment and supplies. Time and again, mariners have demonstrated their willingness and ability to meet daunting challenges.

Waterways have also enabled much of the commerce that has expanded America's economy. Domestic and international commerce occurred along rivers and coasts even before our Nation's birth. Great cities have sprouted near waterways, and maritime activity remains crucial to our economy today.

The men and women of the U.S. Merchant Marine and the many other workers who have supported the maritime industry have made significant contributions to our leadership in the global marketplace, and to our security.

On this National Maritime Day, we also mark the opening of a permanent exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution, "On the Water." It demonstrates the importance of the maritime industry and chronicles our history as a maritime nation.

The Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 20, 1933, has designated May 22 of each year as "National Maritime Day" and has authorized and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation calling for its appropriate observance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 22, 2009, as National Maritime Day. I call upon the people of the United States to mark this observance by honoring the service of merchant mariners and by displaying the flag of the United States at their homes and in their communities. I also request that all ships sailing under the American flag dress ship on that day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Governor Signs Transportation Budget in Tacoma

May 13, 2009

Thanks to a broad coalition of stakeholders, South Sound residents and businesses stand to benefit from the historic state transportation budget signed Wednesday by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy hosted a reception immediately after Wednesday’s bill-signing ceremony to thank the Gregoire administration, legislators, stakeholders and staff for their hard work that led to approval of a state transportation budget that’s expected to preserve and create tens of thousands of jobs.

“We’re honored that Governor Gregoire chose to sign this historic legislation here in Pierce County, where so much work is set to be done to improve the movement of people and freight,” McCarthy said during the event at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center. “The governor has demonstrated steady leadership and a willingness to tackle controversial and complex issues in a very challenging budget climate.”

Highlights of the transportation plan that pertain to Pierce County include:

-- Extending car-pool lanes on Interstate 5 to Tacoma. (read TNT article)

-- Widening or realigning portions of SR 161.

-- Purchasing property for the future expansion of SR 167.

-- Making safety improvements to SR 302 in the Purdy area.

-- Widening SR 410 in the Bonney Lake area.

-- Making other improvements to roads, bridges, railroad tracks and ferry facilities around the region.

Fore a complete list of Pierce county transportation projects click here.

Shortly after taking office, McCarthy quickly organized more than 100 representatives of local government, business, labor, Indian tribes and environmental groups to unite to make sure Pierce County maintained a level of state funding that is appropriate for Washington state’s second-largest county.

“This coalition of stakeholders made a huge difference,” McCarthy said. “They signed letters. They made phone calls. They spoke with one powerful voice. Legislators told us that this coalition was very effective.

“We can’t let up now. We must keep our momentum as we implement the stimulus programs, and we will do so in a fully transparent way,” she added. “With the help of the leaders who got us this far, I know we can get back on the road to prosperity and success.”

View the list of the transportation coalition members.

Contact: Hunter George, Pierce County communications director, 253-798-6606 or

Find more Pierce County news at or follow us at

Friday, May 08, 2009

2009 SAFETEA-LU Reauthorization Update

At the May 6th RAMP meeting representatives from the Office of Congressman Norm Dicks and WSDOT discussed the Federal SAFETEA-LU reauthorization and WSDOT’s requested project list.

SAFETEA-LU, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act- a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), directs surface transportation programs and policies for the federal government. The Act is scheduled to be renewed by Congress before September 30, 2009. However, Latasha Wortham from Congressman Dicks’ district office suggested that the Act would not be voted on by the full Congress until January 2010.

Wortham advised that projects likely to be at the top at legislators lists will include those projects related to:
· Climate Change, specifically reducing vehicle miles traveled
· Bridge safety projects
· Transit infrastructure and efficiency
· Freight mobility
· Highway safety

The Washington State Department of Transportation has a long list of statewide projects requesting federal funding. There are three Pierce County road projects on this list. (Pierce Transit has also made a SAFETEA-LU funding request.)

· SR 167, Tacoma to Puyallup New Freeway $160,000,000
· I-5, Nisqually to Thorne Lane, Congestion Relief and Safety Improvements $3,440,000
· SR 302 Corridor Safety Improvements $1,000,000

Friday, May 01, 2009

Washington’s first stimulus highway project breaks ground- in Ellensburg

According to the Puget Sound Business journal, “The state’s first stimulus-funded highway project, a $2.5 million repaving project along Interstate 90, broke ground Thursday in Ellensburg.

The contract is expected to generate 25 jobs, between prime contractor Columbia Asphalt and its seven subcontractors, said state Transportation Department secretary Paula Hammond
Gov. Chris Gregoire, Hammond, state Rep. Judy Clibborn and others attended the kickoff of the repaving project, which is the first of 181 roads projects to be funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Recovery Act requires states to make sure 50 percent of their stimulus money is committed within 120 days, and Washington has met that target two months ahead of time. That means Washington could be in line for additional money from other states that don’t meet that requirement, Hammond said.”

Pierce County will complete five projects with the stimulus funds
· SR 167 Rechannelization in Orting
· Shaw Road Extention phase III in Puyallup
· Lincoln Ave. grade separation near the Port of Tacoma
· Rural Town Center improvements in Eatonville

Additionally, WSDOT received $70 million from the stimulus to to construct HOV lanes from Port of Tacoma Road to the King County Line, supporting an estimated 350 jobs. Design work is currently under way. Construction is scheduled to start in the summer of 2009. The project is scheduled to be open to traffic in late 2011.

The remaining $7.8 million will be used to accelerate preliminary engineering on the I-5/SR 16 Eastbound Nalley Valley project, which is scheduled to go to construction in 2011.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Port Presents Economic Situational Analysis

The Port of Tacoma posed for itself a difficult task: Meeting the Challenges of the Global Economic Change, for today's breakfast forum at the Hotel Murano - and it was answered admirably.

No one can claim an unclouded crystal ball into the future or in wholehearted recommendations on a definitive response. The keynoter Walter Kemmsies, Chief Economist, Moffatt & Nichol (who was most recently here for the Northwest Intermodal Conference May 19, 2008) did a creditable job in explaining the why's of getting here, the what's of here and the when's of a forecast. He recommended all to FDIC Commissioner Sheila Bair, who had identified the challenges to our economy several years ago, but lambasted other policy leaders who instead got us to where we are now.

In summary, his forecast:
  • Near Term: we are starting a "low" bounce, becoming "less bad." We don't immediately go from "horrible to good."

  • Mid Term: remember the economists' question at the beginning of the recession was would our recovery be graphed as a "U" or as a "V"? Seems now the recovery is thought to be a "W" for recovery by 2012, given the ability to manage the money supply to fit the economic trends.

  • Long Term: is cautiously optimistic for 2012+. NOTE NOW: Some very knowledgeable and well-placed industry panelists during the later panel Q&A session expressed recovery by 2011 or even late 2010.

Kemmsies also reminded that globalization is about profit maximization, not cost minimization. Longer term trends he identified:

  • INTENSE competition for the PNW

  • the containerization of commodity goods.

  • Mexico as a potential product customization nexus for both American continents

  • No one is asking why Latin America doesn't have a recession

My recommendation: Go next year!

Monday, April 13, 2009

SAFTEA-LU Reauthorization- Call for projects

Congress is getting ready to draft the new transportation authorization to replace the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which expires on September 30, 2009. This legislation is a six-year bill that authorizes our nation's surface transportation programs.

The majority of the Federal funds in the bill will be allocated by formula with the state departments of transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and local transit agencies determining which projects will be funded. However, a select number of Member-sponsored projects will be funded in the bill. Keep in mind that the number of projects in the bill will be limited.

If you know of a governmental agency that would be interested in submitting a project request through this process feel free to send them this form.

If you have any questions, please call or email Jami Burgess at 202-225-5919 or

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Clarification on HOT Lane Revenue

At the April 1, 2009 RAMP meeting Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow stated it is his understanding the revenue generated from the SR 167 HOT Lanes goes into the general fund when it should be used to help finance improvements on SR 167, specifically right-of-way purchase for the Extension project. I did not think that statement was entirely accurate but was not certain enough to speak up at the meeting. Since then I have done a little further research and here are the facts:
  1. The SR 167 HOT Lanes were never implemented to generate lots of revenue. The primary purpose of the HOT Lanes was to make better use of the available space in the existing HOV Lanes thereby providing congestion relief for all users of the corridor. In that sense we feel the HOT Lanes are a success.

  2. The revenue that is generated from the HOT Lanes is placed in a special HOT Lanes account that WSDOT is able to access to maintain and operate the HOT Lanes. To date, there is no money remaining after those operation and maintenance needs have been addressed.

Chris Picard
WSDOT Planning

Friday, March 06, 2009

Pierce County’s Portion of Federal Stimulus Reviewed- Part 1

Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond and Charlie Howard of the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) visited RAMP on Wednesday to present Pierce County’s transportation portion of the Federal Stimulus plan.

Howard passed out a document describing Washington State’s $492 million portion of Federal Highway Administrations (FHWA) funds and the State’s $179 million portion of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds. Of the FHWA funds $77.9 million will be distributed by the PSRC to King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish Counties.

Pierce County will get $18,653,000 in funding for four projects, the largest being $15,808,000 for the Lincoln Ave. Grade Separation in the Port of Tacoma.

Projects were chosen for funding by the PSRC policy board based on a detailed policy framework.
Ready to go asap
Job creation
Ability to start and complete project within designated timeframe. If this does not occur the PSRC will lose the money and will not be eligible for other potential funds
Federal eligibility
Federal process requirements
Open and transparent selection process by PSRC boards recommending projects
Geographic, mode and project type balance

The State Legislature has chosen 6 projects to fund with their $156.1 million in of federal stimulus funding. The largest project on that list is $70 million for extension of the HOV network from the King County line to Port of Tacoma Road. Funding for this project was excluded from the Governor’s transportation budget. Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy and RAMP strongly advocated for restoration of this funding or allocation from the stimulus package.

Part two of this blog detailing Secretary Hammond’s comments at RAMP will be posted on Monday. Check back soon.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Getting Twitchy about TWIC

The Puget Sound chapter of the National Defense Transportation Association's (NDTA) February meeting about Transportation Security & TWIC filled the Port of Tacoma's meeting room at the Fabulich Business Center today.

Doubtless, with this Saturday's imposition of the TWIC (Transportation Workers Identification Credentialing), all those with maritime interactions are realizing preparatory time is fast running out. Given the questions from attendees to the panelists:

....whatever preparation remains to be done is only matched by concern about how things will actually work.

By way of background, panelists swagged that 32,000 TWIC cards were estimated to be necessary regionally when the program was envisioned. To date, 31,286 cards have been activated, 3,340 are ready for activation. Of those, the Seattle administering office will be issuing either first or second notices for pickup.

For those concerned about past transgressions, panelists stated there were only four offenses that would permanently disqualify someone from receiving a card:

  1. espionage
  2. sedition
  3. treason
  4. terrorism

It was stated that of the pool of ~950,000, only 113 have been disqualified. And, given this late date before first implementation, it was estimated that cards could be received in 3 days - two weeks by native-born, U.S. citizens with clean records. Otherwise, background checks would typically take ~ two months.

And how will it all work for those showing up without TWIC cards, for foreign citizenry workers, ships crews, one-time delivery or pickup (by individual citizens or out-of-state, long-haul truckers), etc. - it all depends on the individual facility's USCG-approved security plan.

If you show up Saturday not TWIC-carded, prepare for delays and potentially refusals to accept or deliver cargo. The TWIC Help Desk is 1-866-347-8942.

Workers are able to pre-enroll for TWIC online or the Coast Guard's Homeport site. Pre-enrolling speeds up the process by allowing workers to provide biographic information and schedule a time to complete the application process in person. This eliminates waiting at enrollment centers and reduces the time it takes to enroll.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pierce Transit Considers Service Cuts

In an effort to cut costs, Pierce Transit is considering cutting some low-use bus service.

The situation is a complicated one: Pierce Transit's largest revenue source is sales tax, so while the economy and high gas prices have contributed to considerable ridership increases in the past year, the agency's budget has shrunk as people spend less.

PierceTransit cut $5.7 million from its 2008 budget and is looking at a variety of ways to trim its 2009 budget. This week, staff presented three options to the Pierce Transit Board.

Click here to read more from the News Tribune.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Farrell Reviews Port of Tacoma Activity

Port of Tacoma Executive Director Tim Farrell was the guest speaker at February’s Transportation Club of Tacoma luncheon at C.I. Shenanigan’s on Monday. Farrell provided an overview of Port activity, emphasizing that despite the current economic climate the Port of Tacoma is still planning for future growth.

In general, carriers are seeking to reduce costs during this period by increasing efficiencies; decreasing ships, increasing ports and consolidating to share capacity on ships and in terminals. Although the Port of Tacoma experienced a 3.2% reduction in cargo activity in 2008, comparatively, nationwide Port cargo has dropped by 6.8%. The decrease at the Port of Tacoma is due in part to Mersk and K-line consolidations that have resulted in reduced use of their Tacoma facilities.

On the other hand, some unique characteristics of the Port of Tacoma help keep it competitive. The port has been working for the last thirty years to bolster its intermodal cargo infrastructure, which enables a quick cargo transfer from ships to rail cars. Union Pacific Railroad, in particular, is exploring opportunities to increase its Pacific Northwest operations via the Port of Tacoma as a result of this infrastructure. Similarly, the Port’s strong trade relationships with Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and trade-dependant Pacific Rim countries continue to fuel the Port’ container and bulk auto activities.
Currently the Port is working with NYK Lines to build a new terminal in the Port. Depending on the depth of the economic downturn, the new terminal is scheduled to open in July 2012, bringing 3,000 high paying jobs to the region once the project is fully built out.

Overall, Farrell is optimistic about the Port of Tacoma’s ability to ride out the current economic crisis and anticipates an economic recovery for the Port by 2012.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Pierce County Calls Legislative Delegation to Action

At this week’s RAMP meeting Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy asked for RAMP's support in advocating to restore legislative funding for completing the HOV system in Pierce County and SR-167 right of way procurement.

McCarthy and Port of Tacoma Executive Director Tim Farrell are working together to assemble a broad coalition of public and private sector stakeholders to preserve and protect regional transportation funding for these projects. In her presentation McCarthy stressed that the coalition’s goal is to restore the funding for the most critical transportation projects in the South Sound. In her proposed budget Governor Gregoire has pushed out funding for Pierce County HOV lanes and right-of-way procurement for the SR-167 extension beyond 2015.

McCarthy is asking South Sound business and community leaders to sign a call to action for Pierce County’s legislative delegation, asking them to advocate to restore funding in the transportation budget for these critical South Sound mobility projects.

To have your signature of support included on the letter to the Pierce County legislative delegation please contact Randy Harrison in the Executive's Office.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Got a New Street or Sidewalk? It May Be Thanks to TIB

Seen a new street or walked down a repaved sidewalk recently? It may be thanks in part the Transportation Improvement Board (TIB). TIB is a Washington State grant agency funded by the revenue from 3 cents of the state gas tax.

Since 1990, TIB has provided about $200 million in street and sidewalk funding to local agencies in Pierce County. Major projects in Pierce County include the recently completed Tacoma D Street Bridge, Lake Tapps Parkway and Canyon Road.

Anyone can view TIB project performance measures and project information on the interactive TIB website, View grants awarded to Pierce County agencies by clicking “Selected Projects” and then the map for Pierce County.

All TIB projects in any municipality can be mapped on Google Maps, just click “Project Information,” then “TIB GIS Project Mapping,” and selected the county and local agency from drop down menus in the upper right corner.

In 2008, TIB won the Award for Excellence from the Government Finance Officers Association and an Innovations Award from the Council of State Governments for its performance website.

Steve Gorcester of TIB presented on Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) projects in Pierce County at the February 4, 2009 RAMP meeting.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

New Hope for Pierce County’s Delayed Projects?

In mid-January Joe Turner of The News Tribune reported that Governor Gregoire’s six-year transportation budget pushes key Pierce County projects off the funding horizon. The projects now scheduled to come on-line after 2015 include extension of carpool lanes on Interstate 5 from Fife to the Tacoma Mall, purchase of property to extend State Route 167 from the Port of Tacoma to Puyallup and construction of the Yelm highway bypass. Read the complete article here.

Robin Rettew, one of the governor’s policy advisors conceded that projects scheduled beyond 2015 will likely need a new source of funding (taxes, tolls, or Federal money) to get built.

However, instead of a commitment to regional funding equity, the Governor’s budget remains dedicated to replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct along Seattle’s waterfront and replacing the SR-520 bridge across Lake Washington. Both projects will likely cost more than $4 billion.

In response to the budget, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, Port of Tacoma CEO Tim Farrell, and elected and business leaders from across the South Sound are joining together to lobby the Governor and the Pierce County legislative delegation for the South Sound’s fair share of transportation dollars.

Executive McCarthy will speak to RAMP about her advocacy plans at the next RAMP meeting on Wednesday, February 4th (8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Fabulich Center, 3600 Port of Tacoma Road, Tacoma, WA 98424).