Elaine Chao confirmed as new U.S. Transportation Secretary

The Senate confirmed Elaine Chao as the next Secretary of Transportation today.

Elaine Chao is the new Secretary of Transportation.

“As I begin my first day as U.S. Secretary of Transportation, I want to thank all of you– the department’s career professionals– for making the transition to new leadership a smooth one, and for welcoming us to the Department,” said Secretary Chao in an email to all transportation staff. “As many of you may know, this will be my third time serving in the U.S. Department of Transportation.  I look forward to working with you once again to ensure that the safety and efficiency of our country’s transportation systems are second to none.  Many thanks again.”

Secretary Chao brings extensive experience in federal government to her new role. She served as the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 2001-2009 under President George W. Bush–the first American woman of Asian descent appointed to a President’s Cabinet.

Previously, Chao served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation from 1989 to 1991, and Director of the Peace Corps from 1991 to 1992. Chao also worked for four years as President and CEO of United Way of America, and as a Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Born in Taiwan, Chao immigrated to the U.S. when she was 8. She has an MBA from the Harvard Business School and an economics degree from Mount Holyoke College.

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Special needs project list approved

The Executive Board has approved a list of special needs transportation projects that will become eligible to receive funding through PSRC’s Coordinated Grant Program and the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Grant Program.

Special needs transportation project list approved by PSRC, will move on to Coordinated Grant Program at WSDOT to be finalized in spring 2017.

Special needs projects provide transportation services to seniors, people with disabilities, and others who have mobility challenges due to age or income to help them get to medical appointments, educational opportunities, jobs, shopping and social interactions.

The list includes 14 projects recommended to receive $4.2 million in funding. There are also 20 projects recommended to receive regional priority rankings for the statewide WSDOT Consolidated Grant competition.

Example projects and the amounts recommended include:

  • Mobility Management King County, Hopelink, $513,056
  • Beyond the Borders, Pierce County Community Connections, $989,262
  • Sustain Community Shuttles for Seniors and People with Disabilities in King County, City of Seattle Aging and Disability Services Division, $490,911

Final decision on awards for projects on the list will be determined after WSDOT Consolidated Grant awards in the spring of 2017.

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Public-public partnership to operate fast ferry

Kitsap Transit announced this week that it will contract with King County Marine Division to operate its upcoming passenger-only ferry service between Kitsap County and Seattle.

King County Marine Division will begin operating the Rich Passage 1 with service to Bremerton in July 2017.

Kitsap voters approved the new ferry service in November. The 28 minute ferry from Bremerton is scheduled to set sail in July 2017. Kingston and Southworth will follow in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

King County will operate and maintain all three services in an agreement scheduled to be finalized in the spring.

“King County Marine Division has demonstrated its expertise through its operation of the King County Water Taxi and has the marine infrastructure to support passenger-only ferry services,” said Port Orchard Mayor Robert Putaansuu. “With a strong operating partner, Kitsap Transit can continue to deliver reliable service to our commuter base and usher in a new chapter for inter-county transit in Kitsap County.”

To fully implement the fast ferry plan, Kitsap Transit will put out a request for bids in the spring to design and build bow-loading vessels that can pull directly into the same slips used by Washington State Ferries.

Joint operations will ensure that King County’s existing services will work seamlessly with the new service and both will coordinate with the upgrades underway at Coleman Dock.



$3 million available for rural transportation projects

It’s time to apply for Rural Town Centers and Corridor funds!

In 2015, Duvall received $1 million in construction funds for SR 203 safety improvements.

The program helps support the needs of the region’s rural areas. It is a two-stage process, beginning with each of the four countywide organizations selecting three projects to compete in the regional competition.

The first stage takes place at the countywide level where each countywide forum reviews the projects of parties interested in seeking RTCC funding and recommends three priority projects to compete in the regional competition.

Information on eligibility, deadlines, etc. may be found on PSRC’s website.

Recommended projects will be reviewed by PSRC in April and released for public comment in May.

For more information, contact Jeff Storrar at 206-587-4817.

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One Center City is topic of next lunch event on January 19

Come to PSRC on January 19 to learn more about the One Center City plan for Seattle’s central neighborhoods.

A plan is developing to make improvements to neighborhoods in and around downtown Seattle.

A plan is developing to make improvements to neighborhoods in and around downtown Seattle.

The effort aims to bring together many communities and partners to create a 20-year plan to improve transportation and provide great public spaces for everyone.

It’s about having easy, affordable, and reliable travel options and public spaces that are safe and inviting.

The project is a partnership between the City of Seattle, King County, Sound Transit and the Downtown Seattle Association.

Over the next year, the plan will set priorities for street enhancements, make sure that all the pieces of the transportation system work together, and identify opportunities to improve public spaces.

Eric Tweit, City of Seattle, will give a presentation on the plan.

The free event is part of PSRC’s monthly peer networking series focused on best practices and resources for local planning and implementation.

The session will take place on January 19, from 12:00-1:30 p.m., at the Puget Sound Regional Council. All are welcome to attend.

UW named a Beyond Traffic Innovation Center

The USDOT has released a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s current traffic, infrastructure and funding challenges, Beyond Traffic 2045.

The University of Washington will be home to the Pacific Northwest's Beyond Traffic Innovation Center, researching new solutions to old transportation problems.

The University of Washington will be home to the Pacific Northwest’s Beyond Traffic Innovation Center, researching new solutions to old transportation problems.

In an effort to bring about improvements to the status quo, 18 innovation centers were named to lead research on solving these problems in “megaregions” throughout the country.

The University of Washington will represent the Pacific Northwest.

Beyond Traffic launched a national conversation about how our country will change in the next 30 years, often in ways that seriously test our transportation system. Our educational institutions are critical to helping us solve these challenges,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These designations will create a community of forward-thinking researchers, students, and thought leaders who will play an important role in ensuring our economy continues to grow, as we protect our planet and the American people through a safe, strong and sustainable transportation network for decades to come.”

The innovation centers are a new approach to solving transportation problems and the UW’s designation will likely benefit the region in multiple ways. PSRC has begun an update to Transportation 2040 that will look at transportation technology, congestion, climate change, infrastructure investment and preservation in the region over the next twenty plus years.



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Puget Sound Gateway to build new links to I-5

New connections from SR 167 and SR 509 to I-5 are moving ahead.

map of Puget Sound Gateway program

The Puget Sound Gateway program received $1.9 billion from the Connecting Washington package in 2015.

On Thursday the Transportation Policy Board will act on several projects that are part of the Puget Sound Gateway program, which aims to reduce traffic congestion and improve freight mobility.

The Washington State Department of Transportation is requesting an amendment to the 2017-2020 Regional Transportation Improvement Program to include $229 million of this funding for three current projects:

SR 509/I-5 & SR 516 Interchange to 28th/24th Ave S.: Construct a new four-lane SR 509 from 28th/24th Ave S to its connection with I-5. The project will also construct a two-lane southbound collector-distributor along I-5, reconstruct the SR 516 interchange into a diamond interchange and provide a connection to Veterans Drive.

SR 167/I-5 to SR 509 Stage 1:  Construct two miles of a new four-lane divided highway connecting I-5 with SR 509 near the Port of Tacoma. This is the first stage of the SR 167 completion project, and also includes three interchanges, replacement of two overpasses, culvert and bridges, new trail segments and additional improvements.

SR 167/I-5 to SR 161 Stage 2:  Construct the last remaining four miles of SR 167 between Puyallup and Fife. This is the second stage of the SR 167 completion project, and also includes two interchanges at SR 161 and Valley Avenue.

In addition to the amendment to the TIP, WSDOT is requesting a change in project status for the SR 167/I-5 to SR 509 Stage 1 project, from Candidate to Conditionally Approved for Right of Way.

Also on the agenda:

You can see the full agenda here and watch the meeting live on Thursday, January 12, 9:30-11:00 a.m.