Congress gets new transportation proposal – May 31 deadline looming

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sent new legislation to Congress today – a six-year fix to federal transportation programs with a one-time tax on untaxed foreign earnings by U.S. companies overseas.

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Legislation sent to Congress today would increase federal funding for public transportation by 76 percent.

The Administration’s proposal joins many others in what’s looking like another down to the wire transportation standoff in Congress.

Federal transportation program expire May 31st and there has been no movement on any proposed fix.

In the central Puget Sound region, over 375 projects and programs are counting on $1.6 billion in federal funds over the next three years.

Most pundits are predicting a short-term “patch” to sustain the Highway Trust Fund – and current federal programs – past the May 31st expiration date.

Today’s proposal from the USDOT would increase funding for the Federal Highway Administration by $12 billion (29 percent) annually and includes over 70 percent more in federal transit funding.

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Big push for transportation package – and changes

An overflow hearing in the House Transportation Committee showed strong support for a statewide transportation package – and for changes to bills that advanced in the state Senate earlier this month.

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House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn confers with Representative Joan McBride prior to a marathon hearing. “It’s my goal to get this passed,” Clibborn said.

Business, labor, environmental and elected leaders all showed up to encourage more forward motion on a transportation package, which would be the first major state package in a decade.

The hearing was about two bills – ESSB 5987 and ESSB 5988, which are linked to reforms that also advanced from the Senate.

The combined potential transportation investment is roughly $26 billion.

Many changes to the Senate package were requested, including:

  • More direct state funding for city streets and county roads
  • Full authority sought by Sound Transit to better connect the region with a vote on ST 3 in 2016
  • Elimination of linkages between a potential new low carbon fuel standard and funding for certain transportation improvements
  • Doing more to address climate change
  • Reducing the impact of the transportation package on other state programs, like education
  • Funding more bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

The timing of the next move on a package is uncertain.  Operating budget proposals start emerging today.

It is traditional for any major transportation package to ultimately be linked to resolution of the state’s operating fund budget, which is generally about the last thing lawmakers do prior to adjournment.

The constitutional deadline for adjournment this year is April 26th.

The absolute deadline for enacting a budget to keep state government running is June 30th.

 


PSRC gets clean audit

For the 3rd year in a row, PSRC and the EDD have received clean audits with no findings or management letters.

PSRC receives third clean audit with no findings in a row.

PSRC receives third clean audit with no findings in a row.

This audit covered two multiyear federally funded projects: Growing Transit Communities and the i6 Green Grant.

Not only was the audit clean with no findings, the reports also issued unmodified opinions on all of PSRC’s financials.

PSRC is currently developing its Biennial Budget and Work Program for the Fiscal Years 2016-2017. At its meeting on March 26, the Executive Board is set to recommend adoption of the draft budget by General Assembly, which will meet on April 30, 2015 .

The highlights in the upcoming budget include a new Trends program, Transportation Futures, and PSRC’s ongoing work to support long-range regional growth, transportation and economic planning.

 

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Cultural access legislation gaining ground

Access to science, heritage and arts experiences advances education, enhances the economy, enriches quality of life and strengthens communities.

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Communities that are home to vibrant cultural organizations are more competitive for high-paying jobs and high-quality workers, and enjoy greater economic prosperity.

Legislation to increase access to cultural institutions and educational experiences is moving forward in Olympia.

The bill unanimously passed out of the House Committee on Community Development, Housing, and Tribal Affairs.

It would give voters the option to create special districts in support of art, science and heritage institutions.

This has been a top priority of the Regional Economic Strategy and the effort towards getting legislation approved originated at PSRC a few years ago.

 

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House heats up on transportation package

Sound Transit and the PSRC have moved meetings so people can trek to Olympia this coming Thursday to support action on a statewide transportation package.

Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-41

Representative Judy Clibborn of Mercer Island will chair next week’s key hearing on a transportation package.

The House Transportation Committee will hold a hearing at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26, on two bills the Senate advanced to fund a comprehensive set of transportation investments.

The hearing will be in House Hearing Room B.  Expect a crowd.

The two bills – ESSB 5987 and ESSB 5988 – passed the Senate with bipartisan support earlier this month, along with eight reforms.

5987 raises state revenue through fuel tax and fee increases, and authorizes new local authority, including: voter approved funding for Sound Transit 3, Community Transit and foot ferries serving Kitsap County.

5988 defines the uses of new state funds, including programs and projects.

The House hearing is a next critical step toward enactment of a new transportation package this year.

 


Deadline for VISION 2040 Awards approaching

The last chance to postmark VISION 2040 Award nominations is Friday, March 27, 2015.

Redmond's Central Connector was a VISION 2040 Award winner last year.

Redmond’s Central Connector was a VISION 2040 Award winner last year.

The awards recognize the superb work being done to achieve the region’s growth, economic, and transportation strategy, VISION 2040.

PSRC honors businesses, local governments, and non-profit organizations who do creative work to provide transportation access and mobility, enhance our natural environment, bring jobs closer to where people live, focus high quality housing where the infrastructure needed to support it already exists, and improve the quality of life in the central Puget Sound region.

Please contact Michele Leslie at 206-587-4819 or mleslie@psrc.org with questions.

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10 of 14 HOV routes fail standards – and getting worse

In 2013, data revealed that 10 of 14 of the region’s High Occupancy Vehicle lane commutes fail to meet performance standards.

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The charts shows a 20 minute increase on the morning HOV commute on I-5 from Everett to Seattle from 2010 through 2014, with the biggest increase last year.

Data from 2014 assembled by PSRC underscores that the situation has gotten worse.

The numbers won’t surprise people on the peak afternoon drive on I-405 from Bellevue to Tukwila, the worst performing HOV segment.

Or people on the next worst HOV route – the peak morning commute from Everett to Seattle on I-5, where the trip took an average 20 minutes longer in 2014 than 2010, with most of the increase occurring last year.

Community Transit routes on I-5 were late 25 percent of the time in 2014.

Next Thursday, the PSRC’s Executive Board will take up the topic and help set the stage for solutions.

The region’s 310-mile HOV system has taken 40 years to build, at a cost of about $1.5 billion.  It carries about a third of rush hour commuters.

 

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