Archive for transportation

‘New driver’ sign for teens required under bill

By | March 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

A big, bright red “new driver” sign could be part of every Clark County teen’s 16th birthday if state lawmakers pass a five-year pilot program aimed at decreasing youth fatalities on the road.

new driverRep. Liz Pike, Camas Republican and prime sponsor of the bill, says although ages 16 to 25 represent only 11 percent of Clark County drivers, they make up 35 percent of fatalities and 45 percent of serious injury accidents within its borders.

“When I’m driving down the road and see one of those student driver cars, I give those student drivers a wide berth,” she said at a hearing Monday. “We need to do everything we can to help them be better drivers.”

House Bill 1159 requires drivers younger than 18 to display a foot-long decal on any car they drive or face 20 hours of community service.

The state Department of Licensing would issue decals along with instruction permits, intermediate and driver’s licenses for $1.50. The department must study the program’s impact on public safety through Dec. 31, 2019 and report back to the Legislature.

New Jersey is the only state with a similar decal program, requiring drivers younger than 21 to display a decal on license plates. Washington’s decal would be placed on the passenger’s side of the back window.

No one testified in opposition of the bill during Monday’s hearing, but Sen. Annette Cleveland said she’s received concerned emails about what the bill could mean for young girls. “Displaying this sticker may also alert others that there is a young girl alone in a car,” the Vancouver Democrat said.

The bill passed the state House 53-44. No action was taken in Senate Transportation on Monday.

Distracted driving law update passes in state Senate

By | March 10, 2015 | 0 Comments

Washington’s distracted driving law would be updated for the first time since 2007 — before the iPhone was on the market — under a bill passed Tuesday in the state Senate.

Right now, state law bans only texting and holding a phone to you ear while driving. Sending emails, posting to social media and even playing videos behind the wheel is legal.

phone

Senate Bill 5656 would make it illegal to hold a phone altogether while driving. Drivers caught violating the law would face a $124 fine. Two violations in five years and the amount would double.

Senators amended the bill on the floor so the first violation will not be shared with insurance companies or employers, unless the driver holds a commercial license.

Supporters say the bill, requested by the state Traffic Safety Commission, would make it easier to enforce the state’s distracted driving law. Troopers gave tickets to fewer than half of the 2,500 drivers pulled over for texting and driving in 2013. That’s at least in part due to a loophole that lets drivers get out of tickets.

Critics say it takes away personal liberties. Prime sponsor Sen. Ann Rivers says it’s worth it to make Washington safer. “At what point do we let the personal liberties and freedoms of others be impacted because there’s a text that just can’t wait?” the La Center Republican said.

Sen. Jim Hargrove spoke in opposition, saying drivers can be just as distracted by eating a burger or putting on makeup. “We ought to focus on the activity of distracted driving and not all of the things we can do to it,” the Hoquiam Democrat said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety last year made more than $20 million available in federal grants as part of a distracted driving program. Washington did not qualify because of its outdated law.

The bill passed 35-14. It now heads to the state House.

Uber, Lyft are target of bills in the House, Senate

By | March 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

As Uber, Lyft and other smartphone app-based transportation services expand services throughout Washington, competing measures in the state House and Senate are working to create a new regulatory system.

10103237286_becdefba86_zIn the Senate, a comprehensive plan has been proposed to establish a statewide permit process, increase insurance requirements and require background checks.

Over in the House, members passed a measure off the floor that only requires ride-share drivers to carry insurance.

Services are launching in cities throughout the state – already in Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane, with plans to expand to Olympia and beyond. As cities decide how to regulate Uber and Lyft, some lawmakers worry the industry could become dysfunctional.

That’s why Sen. Cyrus Habib says he’s sponsoring Senate Bill 5550, which would establish a uniform regulatory framework throughout Washington, with rules for permits, insurance and more. The bill, he says, will help so-called transportation network services avoid the myriad of contradictory regulations taxis face. “We have a chance to get this right on day one,” he said.

But, in its original form, Habib’s bill would have undone city regulations – a problem for those who fought hard for Seattle’s rules.

Taxi drivers last year told Seattle City Council so-called transportation network companies had an unfair advantage without regulations. When council members agreed and voted to cap the number of ride-share drivers, a citizen’s group suspended the ordinance after collecting enough signatures to send the measure to voters.

It took an intervention from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and months of negotiations between city leaders, taxi companies and ride-share services to come up with a compromise plan.

Habib has since changed his bill, allowing cities with more than 200,000 people or counties with more than 1 million people to require additional permits, impose fees and penalties. “The size limit essentially covers the cities that already have regulations,” Habib said.

After some involved in Seattle’s negotiations opposed Habib’s plan, Rep. Steve Kirby says he came up with one of his own. He says insurance is important and Habib’s bill gets away from that. “It’s just a Christmas tree of every kind of regulation,” he said of Habib’s bill.

So he sponsored a new bill as a “back-up plan,” focusing on the one things he says everyone agrees on – insurance. “My concern was, as that bill was running into rough sailing, it might die and the insurance provisions would die along with it,” Kirby said.

House Bill 2131 would require ride-share drivers to be covered with $1 million liability insurance when they have a customer. The rest of the time, they need only to have personal insurance, at least $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident.

The state House passed Kirby’s bill last week with a vote of 77-17.

Habib says it’s good to have a back-up plan, but Kirby’s bill isn’t applicable to all ride-share models. “It’s certainly a noble goal to put in play a second vehicle to at least address insurance,” he said. “But it’s a one-size-fits-all bill and the reality of the industry is there are different models.”

Colorado was the first state to pass a law regulating transportation network services. Habib’s bill, which he expects to come to a floor vote early this week, is modeled after the law.

Categories: transportation

Senate passes transportation package following decision on two-thirds rule

By | March 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen ruled Monday that the state Senate’s rule requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote to raise taxes is unconstitutional.

Owen made the ruling following a challenge from Democrats on Friday over a proposal to increase the state’s gas tax by 11.5 cents to pay for a transportation package that would fund projects around the state.

The ruling paved the way for the Senate to continue debating the transportation revenue package, which had been put on hold over the weekend while Owen made his decision.

The $15 billion dollar transportion package pays for six megaprojects, including the North Spokane Corridor in Spokane and the State Route 520 Bridge, as well as dozens of regional projects and traffic congestion relief.

Sen. Mark Mullet urged members to pass the bill as he described the “parking lot” he sees each day on the state’s freeways during his commute from Issaquah to Olympia. “The reality is this thing is not going to fix itself, and it’s up to the people in this room,” he said.

Other supporters say it is a fair to tax those who use the roads the most. “If you drive 10,000 miles a year, you pay a lot less in gas taxes than if you drive a lot of miles,” said Sen. Tim Sheldon.

But Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, said it will hurt drivers in rural districts. “It might not seem like a lot, but an extra 12 cents a gallon adds up quite a bit for folks who have to drive greater distances and fill up their rigs more often,” he said.

Several Democrats spoke in against the overall transportation package because it comes with conditions they oppose. “There are some factors in this underlying legislation which are uncomfortable. Rolling back environmental permitting. That’s tied to this legislation,” said Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson.

But Republicans say those conditions are necessary to gain public trust and expedite projects. Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Whatcom County, said the permitting change “is not just about expanding [Interstate] 405, it’s not just about [State Route] 167…it’s also about being able to have a permitting system in place that allows us to build light rail more efficiently and effectively.”

Sen. Annette Cleveland of Vancouver said she was voting against the bill because the transportation package does not include money for the Columbia River Crossing bridge between Portland, Oregon and Washington. “Vancouver was told repeatedly throughout the course of the last decade, ‘Wait your turn there are other megaprojects in the state that take priority.’ Vancouver waited our turn, and I submit to you that our turn has now come,” she said.

The chamber passed Senate Bill 5987 with a vote of 27 to 22. It now heads to the House for its consideration.

House Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan released a statement saying the “bad greatly outweighs the good” in the transportation package. “We in the House will do our best to fix the transportation package sent over by Senate Republicans, but before that we will need to see substantial movement on their part to address our paramount duty of educating our children and fairly balancing our operating budget,” he said.

Watch the debate below:

Categories: transportation

Democrats challenge Senate transportation proposal over two-thirds supermajority rule

By | February 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

Those who were hoping to see a transportation package passed off the floor on Friday were left with a cliffhanger. Senators will return to the debate on Monday following a surprise challenge from Democrats.

The state Senate on Friday began debate on a $15 billion dollar transportation package, which would pay for major road projects around the state by raising the gas tax by 11.5 cents per gallon. The package also includes conditions that many Democrats oppose — including what they call a “poison pill” that would shift money away from transit, bike and pedestrian paths if the governor institutes a clean fuel standard.

Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Sharon Nelson urged members on the floor to adopt a “clean package” without the conditions. She said her version still provides tax money to fund transportation projects, but is “not linked to any other legislation which may be based on ideology from either party.”

That proposal failed along caucus lines. As the Senate prepared to debate the final transportation package that included the conditions, Democratic Sen. Annette Cleveland asked Lt. Gov. Brad Owen if the proposal to raise the gas tax requires approval of two-thirds of members based upon a rule change made on the first day of session.

The rule change, which was passed off the floor by the mostly Republican Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, includes a clause that would require bills with a new tax to get a two-thirds supermajority approval of the Senate before advancing to third reading.

Republican Sen. Curtis King responded to Cleveland’s question by saying he believes the gas taxes in the package are “existing taxes and therefore would not fall under that guideline.”

Following a break, Sen. Joe Fain told members the Senate will hold off on the transportation package until Monday to give Owen time to make his decision.

Before the challenge, the Senate debated several other bills related to the transportation package. One of the most contentious proposals, Senate Bill 5990, would shift sales tax money collected from building road projects away from the general fund, and use it for transportation.

Several Democrats spoke in opposition to the proposal, saying it will rob the general fund of education money.

“The fact is that taking a billion dollars, when we have no agreement around where those dollars are going to come from, means that we are saying, ‘We are going to fund concrete instead of our kids,'” said Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle.

Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane urged support, saying the transportation package will add money to the general fund for education in the long-term. “What those roads are going to do is allow our economy to grow and generate a tremendous amount of economic growth,” he said.

The bill passed along caucus lines with a vote of 26 to 23.

You can watch the full Senate floor debate in TVW archives. We’ll also have the highlights on Friday’s edition of “Legislative Review” at 6:30 and 11 p.m. (unless a committee is live).

Categories: transportation, WA Senate

Thursday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | February 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Thursday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” On the show, we cover the passage of bills off the House floor, including one that would change state law to allow for a group of people to be awarded the Medal of Valor. It’s intended for those who risked their lives to help others during the Oso landslide. Plus, a committee hears Secretary of State Kim Wyman‘s proposal to change presidential primary elections and we have details from the public hearing on the Senate’s transportation proposal.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m.

Categories: transportation, TVW

Senate transportation leaders propose $15 billion package, new gas tax

By | February 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

After three years of gridlock on transportation, Senate transportation leaders announced the proposal of a $15 billion transportation package along with an incremental 11.7 cent gas tax increase over three years.

The package include six megaprojects in different areas of the state, including the North Spokane Corridor (known locally as the north-south freeway) and the Seattle end of the State Route 520 Bridge.

The package includes 58 regional projects, and some of the reforms that Republican Senate leaders had called for, said Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Curtis King, R-Yakima.

King made the announcement on Thursday, along with fellow Republican Sen. Joe Fain of Auburn and Democrats Sen. Marko Liias of Lynnwood and Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens.

The lawmakers described the package as a compromise, which is ready for public discussion and dissection.

“There are many elements of it that continue to cause me heartburn and continue to cause heartburn on both sides of aisle, but I know that we’re going to work diligently together,” Liias said.

“To sit back and have conversations that don’t involve the public at this point wouldn’t be appropriate,” Fain said.

The package includes 11 bills total, including eight reform bills, a bond bill, a revenue bill and a spending bill. There would be gas rate hikes over the three years totaling 11.7 cents a gallon: 5 cents, 4.2 cents and 2.5 cents a gallon. The increases would start this summer, under the current proposal.

Among the expenditures are:

  • $1.4 billion in preservation, maintenance and facilities
  • $8.1 billion in improvements
  • $375 million to cities and counties
  • $578 million for ferries
  • $486 million for transit grants
  • $240 million for the Washington State Patrol

The budget and revenue proposals are available on the state’s LEAP website.

Among the policy changes are:
  • Changes to environmental permitting
  • Decreasing requirements on apprenticeship
  • Requiring the sales taxes on transportation construction be transferred to road projects, starting in 2019

The package includes a contingency that calls for directing revenue not tied to bonds to the Motor Vehicle Fund if the legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee adopt a low-carbon fuel standard.

Hobbs and Liias said that the Democratic caucus disagrees with that contingency, but will continue to negotiate.

“That’s one little issue we’ll have to work out,” Hobbs said. (more…)

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Bill would create statewide regulations for ride-share companies

By | January 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

State lawmakers have launched a push to regulate app-based transportation companies, including UberX and Lyft, operating in Washington.

Senate Bill 5550 would require the companies to provide liability, uninsured motorist and personal injury insurance for drivers, conduct background checks and inspect vehicles. It would reverse city regulations and put in place a statewide standard.

The move comes after extensive negotiations between Seattle leaders, taxi companies and ride-share services.

Taxi drivers last year told the Seattle City Council that UberX and Lyft were hurting business. When council members agreed and voted to cap the number of ride-share services, a citizen’s group suspended the ordinance after collecting enough signatures to send the measure to the ballot.

It took an intervention from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and months of negotiations for stakeholders to come up with a compromise plan. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Cyrus Habib, would undo that ordinance and set up framework for the state.

The Kirkland Democrat says it’s important to set up a unified system as ride-share companies launch around the state. City and county regulations have weighed down the taxi industry, he said.

“The taxi system ultimately has become so dysfunctional because of a myriad of contradictory regulations,” Habib told TVW. “We have a chance to get this right on day one, so let’s not let this become dysfunctional.”

Colorado was the first state to pass a law regulating ride-share services. Washington’s bill is modeled after the law.

Seattle’s law requires drivers to get insurance, but Habib says cities lack the authority to require insurers to pay out in an accident. That’s a function of the state, he says. Stakeholders who took part in city negotiations were “deeply involved” in drafting this bill, Habib says, including drivers unions, ride-share services and Seattle Uber general manager Brooke Steger.

Habib is blind and says he’s relied often on the services to get around. “We need to make sure we are supportive of their ability to operate,” he said. “But we need to write a law that protects the consumer and provides safe options.”

Categories: transportation

Live from the Capitol: TVW’s opening day show starts 10 a.m. Monday

By | January 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature’s 2015 session begins Monday, Jan. 12. Opening ceremonies start at noon, but tune in to TVW early to catch exclusive interviews with lawmakers, who will discuss key issues for the coming months.

Starting at 10 a.m., The Impact’s Anita Kissee will host the live show from the Capitol rotunda. Gov. Jay Inslee will stop by to talk about his budget proposal and more.

Guests include House and Senate leadership from both sides of the aisle, including Senators Sharon Nelson, Mark Schoesler, Andy Billig, Linda Evans Parlette and Representatives Dan Kristiansen, Pat Sullivan, Joel Kretz and Eric Pettigrew.

Hear about key issues including education, transportation and mental health from Senators Jeannie Darneille, Doug Ericksen, Curtis King, Steve Litzow, Rosemary McAuliffe, John McCoy and Steve O’Ban, plus Representatives Judy Clibborn, Hans Dunshee, Richard DeBolt, Cary Condotta and Sharon Wylie.

We’ll also get insight about the session from Capitol reporters Jim Camden of The Spokesman-Review and Jordan Schrader from The News Tribune.

TVW will carry gavel-to-gavel coverage of opening ceremonies beginning at noon.

Stay tuned to TVW throughout the session for coverage of the state Legislature. Starting opening day of session, Legislative Review will air nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m. “The Impact” airs Wednesdays at 7 and 10 p.m. and Inside Olympia with Austin Jenkins is Thursdays at 7 and 10 p.m.

WSDOT update on fish passage barriers

By | June 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Department of Transportation is spending $36 million on replacing fish passage barriers during the current two-year budget cycle that ends in 2015, the most it has ever devoted to the project.

But it still falls short of the estimated $310 million needed each budget cycle to meet the U.S. District Court injunction requiring the state to fix hundreds of fish-blocking culverts by 2030.

WSDOT Director of Environmental Services Megan White said Wednesday the department is working in “good faith” to meet the deadline, but an estimated $2.4 billion dollars of work remains to be done.

“Replacing culverts isn’t easy,” White said.

The average cost of replacing a culvert is $3 million, she said, although some cost upwards of $20 million. The culverts must be built to last and able to handle a significant amount of traffic, White said.

Watch an interview about the issue on “The Impact” on Wednesday, June 4 at 7 & 10 p.m. More information about the project can be found here, including WSDOT’s response to last year’s court injunction requiring the state to increase its efforts in fixing the culverts.

Update: Watch “The Impact” below: