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.