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.