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, www.tib.wa.gov/performance/dashboard. 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).