Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pierce County Legislators Present Transportation Bills in Olympia

Transportation is a hot topic this state legislative session and particularly important to Pierce County legislators.

At a House Transportation Committee hearing yesterday, two different bills were presented by Pierce County legislators. First, House Bill 1485, sponsored by several Pierce County Representatives, such as Rep. Jake Fey (D-Tacoma), Rep. David Sawyer (D-Tacoma), and Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), seeks to double the vehicle fee limit under a transportation benefit district’s councilmatic authority from $20 to $40.

Last fall, the Tacoma City Council used this authority to increase the car tab fee to the maximum allowed $20. Tacoma City Councilman Ryan Mello testified yesterday that raising the car tab fee limit to $40 is crucial to meet the city’s transportation infrastructure needs. Currently, car tab fees may be raised to up to $100 per vehicle with a public vote of support, $20 without.

Another Pierce County legislator, Rep. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) questioned whether or not people could afford to pay additional car tab fees.

Additionally, HB 1865, which would allow the elected, governing body of an area to impose a sales tax of up to 0.9 percent without a public vote of support, was also introduced. According to the bill, the sales tax would be approved by a weighted majority vote of the governing body, if the entire population of the district was represented by elected officials serving on the board and voting on the resolution. This bill would allow entities, such as Pierce Transit, to increase sales taxes without a public vote, but only if changes were made that connect board member votes to corresponding population.

You may recall last fall the Pierce Transit sales tax increase of 0.03 percent was opposed by voters.

For more information on these bills, see The News Tribune.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

House Democrats Transportation Revenue Package Leaves 167 Underfunded

On Wednesday, Representative Judy Clibborn (D- Mercer Island), chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee, introduced a transportation revenue package worth $9.8 billion.

Revenue would be generated from several different areas, including a 10 cent increase in the gas tax, a new annual car registration fee at 0.7 percent of the vehicle’s value, $3 million in new bonds, as well as a $25 fee on bicycles sold for $500 or more. There would also be a 0.3 percent increase in the hazardous substance tax, $5 for vehicle tab renewals, and $12 for title transfers.

While the package included resources for the completion of State Route 167, the project was notably underfunded at $1 billion for both SR 167 and SR 509. SR 167 is estimated at costing $1.5 billion to complete, while low estimates for SR 509 aim towards $300 million.

In order for the package to be passed into law, any new taxes would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the legislature or simple majorities in both houses followed by a vote of the people.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Transportation Infrastructure in WA

A new Association of Washington Business (AWB) transportation report highlights employer concerns about transportation.

Aging infrastructure, bottlenecks at key ports and continued concerns about the financing of future projects are just a few of the top transportation worries for Washington state employers. That’s according to a new report published today by AWB, issued today during AWB’s 2013 Legislative Day in Olympia.

“In many ways, transportation is the lifeblood of our economy. We rely on our bridges, roadways, water, rail and airways to move people, goods and services on a daily basis. Any delays can have big economic impacts for business and our overall competitiveness as a state,” said AWB President Don Brunell.

The report captures the findings of focus groups held with purchasers and suppliers of transportation and logistics services around the state in the fall of 2012. AWB member companies were invited to share their thoughts, ideas and concerns about the economic, regulatory and workforce challenges faced by their industry. Sessions were held in Moses Lake, Spokane, the Tri-Cities, Vancouver, Renton, Seattle, Bremerton, Yakima and Mount Vernon.

“Transportation infrastructure is a critical piece in building a strong economy and providing jobs,” said Mike Ennis, AWB government affairs director for transportation policy. “Traffic congestion, choke points, and crumbling roads create risk, drive up costs and act as a drag on the economy. It’s clear from this report and other feedback we’ve received from our members that the current transportation revenue streams are not adequate,” said Ennis.

“This session, we are working closely with lawmakers and other key stakeholders to find solutions that will preserve the projects currently in place and prioritize those next in the queue.”

Among the report’s key findings:

·         Infrastructure Needs: Several transportation projects have been identified in the state that are critical to business growth, including the North South Freeway in Spokane; completion of State Routes 520 in Seattle and 167 in south King and north Pierce counties; and the Columbia River Crossing in Vancouver.
·         Funding: There is a lack of maintenance and operation funding for existing transportation infrastructure and the decline in the purchasing power of gas tax revenue has put new projects in jeopardy.
·         Overregulation: Overregulation for the transportation and logistics industry makes it difficult to provide efficient services to business.
·         Environmental Mitigation: Costs of environmental mitigation studies and programs are redundant leading to increased project costs and long delays in project completion.
·         Port Bottlenecks: Bottlenecks at the Port of Seattle continue to frustrate efforts to get goods to market in a timely manner.
·         Workforce Needs: The combination of an aging workforce and a dwindling pipeline of new workers is threatening the viability of the transportation industry.

To view the report in full, visit the AWB Institute here.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Transportation Projects, SR 167, Highlight Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber’s Leg Day

On Friday, February 1, 2013 several key area business leaders met with Pierce County legislators for the Tacoma- Pierce County Chamber of Commerce’s first Legislative Advocacy Day of the session.

At the informal luncheon, business leaders and legislators discussed numerous issues, such as healthcare, education, and workforce and economic development. However, the major topic under discussion was transportation, and in particular, the full funding and complete construction of State Route 167, a top priority for the Chamber.

We have previously discussed the history behind the project. Still, it is important to note the project’s state-wide economic significance, the major driver for its completion. The project would not only create much needed jobs, but the completion would also speed up the shipment of freight through the Port of Tacoma, making it quicker, cheaper, and more efficient to transport goods from Eastern Washington and the Kent and Puyallup River valleys to international markets through the Port of Tacoma.

Other high priority projects discussed include the JBLM –I-5 Corridor and the Cross-Base highway.

Notable Pierce County legislators holding positions on the Senate and House Transportation Committees that were in attendance of the luncheon include Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D), Rep. Jan Angel (R), Rep. Linda Kochmar (R), Rep. Hans Zeiger (R), and Rep. Jake Fey (D).

RAMP 2/6 @ 8AM

AGENDA  -  February 6, 2013
The Fabulich Center
3600 Port of Tacoma Road; 98424

8:00     Welcome & Self-Introductions                                  
            Pat McCarthy, Co-Chair, Pierce County Executive             

8:05     Future Transportation Revenue and Needs
            Doug Vaughn, Director of Budget and Financial Analysis, WSDOT

8:25     SR-167 Completion Coalition
            Tim Thompson, Thompson & Smitch Consulting Group

8:45     Round Robin

9:00     Closing Remarks & Adjourn
            John Wolfe, Co-Chair, Port of Tacoma CEO
Next RAMP Meeting
Wednesday, March 6th – Details TBD

RAMP is a regional coalition including business, labor, public and private organizations and citizens dedicated to improved mobility in the South Sound and Washington State.  Our mission is to ensure a healthy regional economy associated with the development of an effective, efficient transportation system and the resources to sustain it. RAMP is co-chaired by Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, Port of Tacoma CEO John Wolfe and Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber President & CEO Tom Pierson.