Congress sends transportation patch to the President

It came down to the wire in the U.S. Senate last night, but members voted to sustain federal transportation programs through May, just before their August deadline.

WhiteHouse

President Obama is expected to sign legislation sustaining federal transportation programs through May 2015. (White House photo)

Earlier in the week the Senate voted to set up a showdown with the House of Representatives over the duration of the patch – preferring a fix that would end in December and potentially provide a lame duck Congress with an opportunity to produce a multi-year solution late this year.

The drama ended with last night’s Senate vote on the House-passed fix.

The Obama administration has indicated the President will sign the patch, which will set in motion another several months of debate on how to keep funding flowing through next summer’s construction season.

Over 100 regional leaders joined in a letter to the region’s delegation to sustain the Highway Trust Fund, noting that the region is counting on over $2.7 billion in federal funds over the next few years to support over 500 transportation project and programs.

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Alex Pietsch to lead state’s sector strategy

A familiar face from the region has assumed a new role at the state Department of Commerce – overseeing the state’s efforts to grow and improve jobs.

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Alex Pietsch helped lead efforts to secure assembly of Boeing’s 777X and composite wing in the central Puget Sound region.

Alex Pietsch’s new title is: Director of Aerospace and State Sector Based Economic Development.

Pietsch will continue to lead the state’s aerospace office, where he had led in the development and implementation of the statewide aerospace strategy.

Prior to creating the aerospace office under two Governors, Alex led economic development for the City of Renton.

In announcing Alex’s expanded duties, state Commerce Director Brian Bonlender outlined the focus:

“on recruiting, retaining and expanding businesses; developing and driving policy, reducing regulatory barriers; and providing a single point-of-contact to help grow some of our state’s most critical industry sectors.”

Bonlender noted that the office is a critical component of Governor Inslee’s jobs plan and the state’s overall efforts to drive collaborative partnerships, effective public policy and efficient operations.

The state’s sector based economic strategy syncs up with the region’s economic strategy, which is developed by the PSRC and implemented by partners across the region.

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Sept 5 is deadline to apply for policy board seats

PSRC is looking for interest groups to serve as non-voting representatives on the Transportation Policy Board and Growth Management Policy Board.

Is your community group interested in being on a PSRC Board? Apply now!

Each board has openings in the categories of business/labor and community/environment.  The seats are for three-year terms.

Interest groups that would like to apply should do so by 5 p.m. on Friday, September 5, 2014.

Applications will be reviewed and selected by the policy board chairs and leadership at the PSRC. The decision will be made in September for new members to be seated in early October 2014.

 


New web toolkit for planning for whole communities

A new resource for local jurisdictions to promote health, equity, and sustainability in policies, programs, and comprehensive plans is now available at psrc.org.

New Planning for Whole Communities Toolkit available at psrc.org!

New Planning for Whole Communities Toolkit available at psrc.org!

The Toolkit contains 25 resource guides describing specific tools and how to put them to work at the local level as well as helpful links and examples of best practices. It also provides information applicable for the entire region, with a focus on South King County.

This resource was developed in collaboration with jurisdictions, community advocates, and public health professionals, including the cities of Auburn, Burien, Des Moines, Kent, North Highline, Renton, SeaTac, and Tukwila and the neighborhoods of Southeast Seattle – including Beacon Hill, Georgetown, and South Park.

Attention to health as a consequence of planning and infrastructure decisions can improve quality of life, reduce health care costs, and lessen impacts from lost productivity. Developing and implementing plans and policies that promote health, equity, and sustainability can be politically and financially challenging for local jurisdictions. Providing robust tools and resources, and opportunities for recognition helps to incentivize this planning approach and brings widespread benefits to South King County as well as the central Puget Sound region.

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Eligibility screening for special needs transportation funding

PSRC’s 2014-2015 Coordinated Grant Program for special needs transportation projects is underway.

A formal call for projects and application materials for the 2014-2015 Coordinated Grant will be available online during the week of August 4 – 8.

A formal call for projects and application materials for the 2014-2015 Coordinated Grant will be available online during the week of August 4 – 8.

This year, applicants interested in seeking PSRC’s dedicated special needs transportation funds must submit an eligibility screening form. The form is available here and must be returned to Gil Cerise at gcerise@psrc.org no later than 5:00 pm on Friday, August 22, 2014 .

Applicants are encouraged to submit forms as early as possible.  PSRC will work with WSDOT and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to assess project and applicant eligibility on an ongoing basis.  Responses will be provided to applicants as soon as possible.

PSRC’s Coordinated Grant program funds eligible projects from FTA Section 5310 (Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities) funds and ranks projects applying to WSDOT’s Consolidated Grant Program.

A formal call for projects and application materials for the 2014-2015 Coordinated Grant will be available online during the week of August 4 – 8.  Please see the schedule for more information.

 

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Study highlights coal terminal impacts on region’s transportation and economy

The Puget Sound Regional Council released a new study today that evaluates the economic effects of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal on the central Puget Sound region.

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Pacific International Terminals (a subsidiary of SSA Marine) proposed terminal would be a dry bulk commodity export-import facility at Cherry Point, Washington, approximately 100 miles north of Seattle.

The proposed terminal expects to result in an additional 18 trains per day, each 1.6 miles long, between the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming through Washington State. The terminal is expected to primarily transfer coal to ships for export.

“The PSRC’s regional land use, economic development and transportation planning supports the vital role of international trade in our region’s economy. We also recognize the importance of our railways in keeping our seaports competitive. That’s why we need to stay on top of changes that could impact our economy and communities up and down the Sound,” said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, President of the PSRC.

The study found that most of the proposed terminal’s direct economic benefits accrue to Whatcom County.

Much of the direct costs to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties would be related to increased train traffic – traffic delays at rail crossings and infrastructure improvements.

The study assessed long term traffic impacts. Findings include:

  • Gateway Pacific Terminal traffic impacts due to increased times for passing trains would vary on the BNSF Railway mainline by an increase of 41 percent in Steilacoom to 147 percent in Marysville, with a regional average 65 percent increase.
  • The amount of additional time roads could be blocked by Gateway Pacific Terminal trains would range from 38 minutes to one hour and 26 minutes per day.
  • The study found that 34 of 101 rail crossings within the region could potentially benefit from mitigation related to Gateway Pacific Terminal impacts.
  • Grade separation (new under crossings or overcrossings) can be a desirable solution. Grade separation projects would likely cost between approximately $50 million and $200 million each – predominantly public funds.
  • The study identified 21 crossings in the region where additional waits for trains could impact the delivery of emergency response service due to close proximity to fire stations or emergency medical facilities.
  • The study found that low income and minority population in Kent and Seattle would have the highest impacts from train operations. Low income and minority populations in Everett, Auburn, Algona, Pacific and Fife would also be impacted by the additional trains travelling to and from the proposed terminal.

The study also found that the region’s economy depends on robust rail service and that demands for increased service, for both freight and passengers, is likely to increase regardless of whether the Gateway project is approved and built.

The PSRC retained a consultant team to provide a comprehensive, independent evaluation of the economic effects of the proposed Gateway terminal on King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties.

The study’s two main purposes are to:

1. Better inform decision-makers and the public regarding the effects of the proposed terminal for the central Puget Sound region in advance of the project’s draft environmental impact statement due next year, and

2. Inform ongoing transportation planning within the region.

The study looked at the incremental economic effects of the Gateway project – it did not evaluate emerging issues related to proposed additional crude oil shipments by rail.

The study indicates that the proposed terminal could impact rail capacity within the region, depending on whether the BNSF Railway responds to the increase in demand for service by increasing capacity.

Rail freight and passenger traffic is projected to grow in Washington state and the central Puget Sound region. Rail service is critical to maintaining the region’s growing economy and creating jobs, the study found. In 2012, the value of goods moving through the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett were valued at more than $105 billion. Exports accounted for nearly $40 billion – everything from agricultural products to Boeing parts.

More than 4 million people board an Amtrak or Sounder train annually and the study says passenger growth is expected to continue.

More information on the study, including a presentation, staff summary, and full report, are available at psrc.org.

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Coal terminal economic study to be released Thursday

On Thursday the PSRC’s Executive Board will be presented with a study of the economic impacts of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal on the central Puget Sound region.

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The PSRC study focuses on economic impacts within the central Puget Sound.

Last year the Executive Board initiated the study in anticipation of an upcoming draft environmental impact statement on the project, and to inform ongoing regional transportation planning.

The PSRC’s study looks at transportation and economic impacts within King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties of the proposed export and import terminal at Cherry Point, north of Bellingham.

The proposed terminal is expected to generate as many as 18 additional trains per day, each 1.6 mile long  – primarily transporting coal for export and returning to mines in Montana and Wyoming.

Plans assume the terminal will start operation in 2019.

The study will be released at the Executive Board meeting, which starts at 10 a.m.

There’s a full agenda for the meeting.

The report will be available at www.psrc.org as the briefing starts, probably at about 10:30 a.m.

The meeting will be streamed live. If that is not working well, try this live stream.

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