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


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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.