Archive for transportation

Supplemental transportation budget approved by Legislature

By | March 9, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Legislature has approved a supplemental transportation budget that gives Washington State Patrol troopers a pay raise and aims to fix congestion on the Interstate 405 corridor.

House Bill 2524 passed out of the House on Wednesday on a vote of 86-10. It was approved Tuesday by the Senate, 44-5.

The supplemental budget makes about $507 million in changes to the state’s two-year transportation budget, including additional money for ferries, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and better safety at the “jungle” homeless encampments in Seattle. It also has $45 million from toll funds to improve traffic on the Interstate 405 corridor.

“I’d like to remind everybody that we do two year budgets around here and it’s not a major change from what we did last year, but there are few new things,” Rep. Judy Clibborn, D- Mercer Island said in support. ”We have done good work working together with the Senate.”

405 tollThe budget also includes $5 million dollars for Washington State Patrol salary increases. Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, emphasized the need for higher salaries.

“We do need to bump their pay up a little bit. We are losing too many of them and I’m afraid we are going to lose too many more between now and the time we write the next biennial budget,” he said.

Immediately following the passage of the supplemental transportation budget, the House passed a related bill that aims to improve recruitment and retention of Washington State Patrol troopers.

House Bill 2872 directs state agencies to implement the recommendations of the Washington State Patrol Trooper Recruitment and Retention Study released in January, which includes paying competitive salaries. The bill passed out of the House, 92-4, and out of the Senate, 47-1.

Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, said the salary increases will be staged, rather than dispersed at one time. It includes a five percent increase for troopers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

“We are losing a lot of great state patrol officers through retirement,” he said. “Lots of the troopers are leaving for greener salaries and other law enforcement agencies.”

Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, said that he was a reluctant yes vote.

“I’m not reluctant because of the pay that it dedicates to our troopers. I’m reluctant because it’s not enough to stop the bleeding,” he said. “I don’t believe that its going to be enough commitment.”

The bill specifies that WSP trooper salaries must be the “average compensation paid to the corresponding rank” of law enforcement officers at six other agencies around the state — including the Seattle Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Office and the Spokane Police Department. To determine that average compensation, the bill directs the Office of Financial Management to conduct a survey of each of the six agencies.

Both bills now go the governor for his signature.

On ‘The Impact:’ Senators discuss the removal of WSDOT Secretary

By | February 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

This week on “The Impact,” host Anita Kissée interviews Sen. Curtis King, R- Yakima, and Sen. Steve Hobbs, D- Lake Stevens, about the Senate voteDSC_0977 to fire Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson.

The senators offer their takes on the motivation behind the vote, their reaction to the fallout, what they’re looking for in the next candidate, and how they plan to move forward this session.

“We felt that it was time to turn down that confirmation,” King said in his interview on “The Impact.” “We thought we had sent lots of signals that we were unhappy with some of the things that had been going on and we felt that this was the best way to address it.”

King said he had written multiple letters to Peterson since 2013, expressing concern. He links to the letters in this post on his website. Hobbs said he had not seen the letters, and that the Democrats and the transportation secretary were blindsided by the move.

“No notice whatsoever,” Hobbs said during the interview. “If she was an employee, a private sector employee, she could have cause for wrongful termination. In order for anyone to improve, you have to know what you’re doing wrong.”

Also on the “The Impact” this week, an interview with the House General Government & Information Technology Committee Chair Rep. Zack Hudgins, D- Tukwila and Ranking Minority Member Drew MacEwen, R-Union. They’ll discuss recent bills that have moved through their committee.

Watch the full interviews tonight on “The Impact” at 10 p.m. (The 7 p.m. show will be pre-empted by Senate Law and Justice Committee work session).

Gov. Inslee appoints Roger Millar acting secretary of transportation

By | February 10, 2016 | 0 Comments
Roger_Millar_headshot200

Roger Millar

Gov. Jay Inslee has appointed Roger Millar to be the acting Secretary of Transportation for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The move comes after the Senate voted on Friday to fire Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson three years after she was appointed to the position by the governor.

Millar has been the Deputy Secretary for WSDOT since October, and he has worked in transportation for nearly 38 years.

“WSDOT is fortunate to have Roger, an accomplished engineer and transportation leader, to step up in this pivotal leadership role,” Inslee said in a statement Wednesday.

“Roger is not only an outstanding manager, he’s committed to furthering the innovative work happening throughout WSDOT.”

Inslee has sharply criticized the Senate’s firing of Peterson, but said earlier this week it’s his job to work around the decision.

Senate votes to remove WSDOT Secretary Lynn Peterson

By | February 6, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Republican-majority Senate voted to dismiss Washington Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson from her position Friday by not confirming her three years after she was appointed to the job by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Lynn Peterson

Lynn Peterson

The Friday afternoon vote was 21 to 25, with Democrats voting to confirm and Republicans, along with one Democrat who caucuses with the GOP, voting to remove her.

Inslee criticized the move, saying it was a display of partisan politics by Senate Republicans. “They engaged in a politically-motivated attack on an eminently qualified woman,” Inslee said in a statement.

Republican Sen. Andy Hill spoke on the Senate floor about his frustration over issues with the new I-405 express tolling lanes, describing the situation as “abysmal.”

“This is a very, very serious decision. But I have no confidence that the agency is in a position to fix the problems they have without a change at the top,” Hill said. 

Sen. Cyrus Habib, a Kirkland Democrat, said problems with tolling and Good to Go passes are the fault of lawmakers.

“Those are not issues created by an administrator,” he said. “Those were issues put in place by us and by our predecessors here in the Legislature.”

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, defended Peterson, saying she stepped up quickly when the I-5 Skagit River Bridge collapsed in 2013. “She made sure that bridge was rebuilt under budget and faster than anyone predicted,” he said.

“It is shameful that this body would consider not confirming such an incredible and tireless champion for mobility and public safety in Washington state,” Ranker said. 

Republican Sen. Don Benton said the Skagit bridge collapse was the fault of transportation department. “Why did that bridge fail? The bridge failed because the department issues oversize load permits without verifying the routes that those oversize loads are going to take,” he said. 

Benton said the vote was “not about a lovely lady who is working over at the Department of Transportation,” but about holding people accountable for competence in government.

Watch TVW video of the entire floor debate here.

Categories: transportation, WA Senate

I-405 express lane tolling on ‘The Impact’

By | November 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

On “The Impact” this week, state legislators look at the new Interstate 405 express toll lanes and whether they’re moving traffic faster — or slowing other cars down.

Host Anita Kissee interviews House Transportation Committee members Rep. Judy Clibborn and Rep. Ed Orcutt.

The show also has highlights from several hearings during Legislative Committee Days.

Plus, details about the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver. The public has until Jan. 22 to comment on the statement, either in person or online.

“The Impact” airs Wednesday, Nov. 25 at 7 & 10 p.m.

Categories: transportation, TVW

Ride the Ducks suspension expected to continue through next year

By | November 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

Ride the Ducks has been suspended from operating in Washington since a deadly September crash and state officials on Tuesday said an investigation is ongoing, with the suspension expected to continue through early next year.

A Ride the Ducks vehicle was involved in a Sept. 24 crash with a charter bus that killed five college students on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle.

A final report on the investigation into the Ride the Ducks operations by the Utilities and Transportation Commission is expected to be completed by Dec. 15. The commission will hold a hearing on the report in January or later, and the company will be given a chance to respond. The suspension of Ride the Ducks will remain in place until the UTC issues an order lifting it.

UTC’s David Pratt updated the commission on the investigation at a hearing in Olympia on Tuesday. He said interviews with Ride the Ducks staff have been completed, as well as physical inspections of 10 Ride the Duck vehicles. Inspections of the company’s “stretch” vehicles will be completed in mid-November.

The vehicle involved in the crash has been impounded by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is conducting its own investigation. Pratt said the board is sharing records with the UTC.

A representative from Ride the Ducks said on Tuesday “urgency is a paramount concern” for the company. She said the company is concerned with getting its 130 employees back to work and putting the 10 inspected vehicles back on the road. The company is no longer planning to use the Aurora Bridge route in the future.

TVW taped Tuesday’s hearing — it will be posted online at this link.

‘Legislative Year in Review’ recaps the extended 2015 session

By | July 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state Legislature adjourned on July 10 after a record-setting 176 days. In this hour-long edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights of the significant bills that passed — and failed to pass — during the regular and overtime sessions.

Lawmakers narrowly avoided a state government shutdown by passing a two-year operating budget that was signed into law just before midnight on June 30 by Gov. Jay Inslee. But the session didn’t end there. Senate leaders were drawn into an additional week of negotiations after a debate in the chamber over Initiative 1351, a class size reduction initiative passed by voters that came with a $2 billion price tag.

Senate Democrats and Republicans eventually reached a deal to delay implementation of the class size initiative for four years, while also suspending a new high school biology graduation requirement for two years. That agreement allows nearly 2,000 high school seniors who failed the exam this year to earn a diploma.

As part of the overall budget, college students will get a tuition cut and additional money will be funneled into early education and preschool with the Early Start Act.

Lawmakers also passed a $16 billion transportation package funded by a 11.9-cent gas tax increase that pays for projects across the state — marking the first time in a decade the state has made a significant investment in transportation infrastructure.

Also on the show: We recap debate over several bills that passed this year, including an oil train safety measure, an involuntary commitment bill known as Joel’s law, medical marijuana reform, the establishment of a new Washington State University medical school and a gun notification bill known as the Sheena Henderson Act.

Plus, details about the bills that generated heated debate but failed to pass — including the creation of a new type of payday loan, a proposed $12-an-hour statewide minimum wage, restrictions on initiative signature-gathering and eliminating personal exemptions for vaccines.

“Legislative Year in Review” airs at 6 and 11 p.m. every night on TVW through July 19. Or watch the show online below:

House passes $7.6 billion transportation budget to continue work on current projects

By | May 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state House passed a $7.6 billion transportation budget on Wednesday that includes salaries for the State Patrol and continues road, bridge and ferry projects funded by past gas tax increases.

“Hopefully we are about 90 percent done,” said Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island. “It would be nice for us at some point to have a new revenue package, but that is not what this is about today.”

“This is about keeping the state patrol and the ferries running. It’s about maintaining what we have,” Clibborn said.

Lawmakers are still negotiating a transportation revenue package that would raise gas taxes to pay for new projects across the state.

The package approved Wednesday includes $379 million for the State Route 520 floating bridge, $640 million for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel, widening of Interstate 90 and completion of carpool lanes in Tacoma.

The full budget documents can be found at this link.

Republican Rep. Liz Pike voted against the package, saying negotiated parts of the transportation budget were “washed away” in the compromise version that members voted on Wednesday.

“I”m going to be a protest no vote in opposition of this version because it disrespects all that good bipartisan work done up to this point,” she said.

The budget passed with a vote of 74 to 20, and now moves to the Senate. Thursday is the final day of the first special session. Lawmakers are expected to go into a second special session on Friday to complete work on a two-year operating budget.

Categories: transportation

Puget Sound leaders call on lawmakers to fund light rail expansion

By | April 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

With a week left in Washington’s legislative session, transportation proposals in the House and Senate remain about $4 billion apart in taxing authority for Sound Transit.

uwstationGov. Jay Inslee joined King County Executive Dow Constantine and other leaders on Friday at University of Washington station, the region’s newest light rail stop, to make a plea for lawmakers to include the full $15 billion in funding authority.

That’s how much Sound Transit says it wants to send to voters in 2016 to fund light rail expansions through Puget Sound, building tracks to Everett, Tacoma and beyond.

But it’s a number some lawmakers are hung up on as the Legislature tries for a third year to pass a major transportation package. The Democrat-led House proposal includes the full $15 billion, but the GOP-controlled Senate proposal has $11 billion in funding authority.

Sound Transit chair Constantine says $11 billion is not enough. Washington needs light rail to ease congestion on state roads – like the backup caused by an overturned truck full of bees early Friday morning.

“Most of us have to plan for a whole bunch of extra wasted time just in case the bridge is backed up, just in case there’s an accident,” he said. “That is very bad for people’s productivity, less time with you family, less time earning money.”

Both the House and Senate have agreed on a 16-year, $15 billion transportation plan to pay for highway, road and bridge projects funded through an 11.7-cent gas tax increase over the next three years. Lawmakers have until Sunday, the last day in the regular session, to pass the plan unless there’s a special session.

Good-to-Go problems? Bill aims to address complaints

By | April 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

A bill aiming to address drivers’ complaints about the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Good-to-Go tolling system is moving forward, as it passed unanimously in the House Tuesday afternoon, with amendments.

The State Route 520 bridge uses electronic tolling. Photo by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The State Route 520 bridge uses electronic tolling. Photo by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Senate Bill 5481 adds customer service enhancements to the state’s electronic tolling system, including requiring a letter of apology to customers for errors made by WSDOT or the tolling system.

The state tolling system has been subject to much criticism over the past few years from drivers who say that they have been levied unreasonable penalties without warning, or mistakenly billed.

Drivers also have said that WSDOT’s toll appeals system is difficult to navigate.

The bill requires the WSDOT to contact prepaid electronic toll account holders to inform such holders of unpaid tolls.

It also gives additional discretion to administrative law judges to dismiss civil penalties due to mitigating circumstances, and authorizes the WSDOT to dismiss civil penalties in certain circumstances.

Vehicle dealerships would be able to sell Good-to-Go transponders under the measure. The bill also calls for a redesign of the website to be more user-friendly.

It heads back to the Senate for further consideration.

House lawmakers on the floor praised the intent of the bill.

“We should be talking about good customer service. We should talk about being civil, not civil penalties,” said Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island.

“I think this bill will do something to improve the public’s trust of the Department of Transportation,” said Rep. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington.