Clibborn discusses transportation priorities in 2017

Representative Judy Clibborn recently spoke with participants at the Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable regarding recent developments in transportation and the outlook for the upcoming 2017 legislative session.

State Representative Judy Clibborn spoke to the Freight Mobility Roundtable last week.

State Representative Judy Clibborn spoke to the Freight Mobility Roundtable last week.

Clibborn reflected on her decade long history of speaking to the group and the progress that has been made on identifying funding to complete the transportation projects and programs that keep people and freight moving.

Despite the passage of transportation revenue packages in the Legislature, there are still significant challenges and unmet needs for new transportation investments as well as for maintaining and preserving the current transportation system.  Advancements in technology are leaning more towards alternatives to fossil fuels, which has implications for the dependence on the gas tax as the main source of revenue for transportation projects.  Rep. Clibborn also discussed the increasing pressure on the transportation system in areas of the state that are experiencing growth, and that these are new challenges that need to be taken into consideration.

Additionally, the Roundtable heard from Ashley Probart of the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board, and Chris Herman of the Washington Public Ports Association regarding the update to the Washington State Marine Cargo Forecast.  Findings are still in draft format, but this data will help decision makers to better understand the movement of freight in the state and the region.  The final study will be made public prior to the 2017 legislative session.

Bill Drumheller of the Washington Department of Ecology provided a presentation covering the new Washington State Clean Air Rule, which applies to fuel refinery activities for fuel consumed in the state.  This rule is intended to reduce the state’s carbon footprint for the transportation sector, and make progress towards meeting the greenhouse gas reductions outlined in state law back in 2008.

Presentations from the meeting are available on the Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable website.

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Panama Canal impacts not settled for region’s seaports

The Panama Canal expansion doesn’t appear to be having much impact of the region’s seaports, yet.

The newly expanded canal opened in June of 2016. It can accommodate vessels with a capacity of 14,000 TEU or containers, compared to previously being limited to vessels with a maximum of 4400 TEU.

This diagram shows the additional capacity of the ships going through the new Panama Canal.

This diagram shows the additional capacity of the ships going through the new Panama Canal.

The larger capacity ship canal appears to have the most benefit for gulf coast states in the shipment of fuels, liquids, breakbulk, and auto imports.

West coast port market share, including the Northwest Seaport Alliance, remains mostly unaffected at this point.

The Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable heard this in a presentation from Michael Zachary of Advisian / Worley-Parsons.

Mr. Zachary also noted routing decisions for container shipping are very complicated.

It may take awhile to understand the full impacts of the new canal.

Additionally, the Roundtable heard from Gary Molyneaux of King County International Airport regarding the Airport Master Plan process, which will be finalized in 2017.

Chris Eaves from SDOT spoke regarding progress towards building the Lander Street grade separation with newly secured revenue from local, state, and federal funds.  The final $40 million for the $140 million project is pending approval by the Seattle City Council.  Construction is scheduled start in 2018 – the new overpass is expected to open in 2020 near Starbuck’s headquarters in Seattle.

For more information on the Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable, please contact Sean Ardussi

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Street safety assessment of south Seattle

The Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable heard from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding the lessons learned from a unique safety assessment held in South Seattle earlier in 2015.

The safety assessment looked at large vehicle and bicycle/pedestrian interaction on specific south Seattle routes.

The safety assessment looked at large vehicle and bicycle/pedestrian interaction on specific south Seattle routes.

The safety assessment was focused on issues involving trucks, pedestrians, and bicycles in this area, and allowed participants to have the opportunity to learn about transportation challenges firsthand from truck drivers, bus drivers, and bicyclists.

More than 100 people participated in the assessment with varied feedback depending on perspective. There was general agreement across all interests that protected, or separated bicycle and pedestrian facilities were the most commonly favored solution.  Issues observed included crossings in the SODO area being difficult for bicyclists and pedestrians, and that bicyclists waiting to make turns are less visible and exposed to risk.  Truck observations included that the behavior of bicyclists and pedestrians can be very unpredictable, making operating a heavy truck more challenging in an urban area.  Final results are available at the NHTSA website for more details.

Additionally, the Roundtable heard an update on developments from the Northwest Seaport Alliance, and heard an overview of the new freight provisions provided for the new FAST Act transportation bill.

To view presentations from the meeting, please go the Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable Website.


State monitoring 405 express tolls

One week into I-405 express tolling and initial performance results suggest that travel times are closely following historical averages for travel times in previous years.

WSDOT is monitoring the new express tolling carefully to ensure congestion is improved.

WSDOT is monitoring the new express tolling carefully to improve congestion as part of the program.

At the Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable on Friday October 3, 2015, WSDOT assistant Secretary Craig Stone indicated that it will likely take months of fine tuning to optimize the performance of the system.

Background analysis reveals that in other congested urban corridors throughout the nation, that managed express toll lanes have improved overall performance on the general purpose lanes as well.  Results such as this have implications for truck trip performance as those trips are restricted to the general purpose lanes at this time.  More information on performance for transit should be available in the coming weeks.

Additionally, the Roundtable heard from the City of Tukwila regarding the study it is working on in collaboration with BNSF to identify alternate connections to the BNSF South Seattle Intermodal Facility.  Plan alternatives are being developed to relieve the pressure from truck traffic on local neighborhood streets in Tukwila’s Allentown neighborhood.

Lastly the Roundtable heard from the Washington Maritime Federation with an overview of a program that has been formed to support and promote the region’s broad maritime industries under one umbrella.  The Federations seeks to increase awareness of the broad sector of the state’s economy and to advocate for support at the state and local levels.

To view the presentation materials from this meeting of the Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable, please visit the Roundtable website.  The next meeting will be held at the PSRC on Friday December 4, 2015.

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Highly hazardous flammable train car requirements

Older train cars used to carry Bakken oil are being phased out in favor of those with improved braking systems and thicker tank walls (or jackets) to improve overall safety in the transport of highly hazardous flammable materials.

"TILX290344" by Harvey Henkelmann - Own work. Licensed under Copyrighted free use via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TILX290344.JPG#/media/File:TILX290344.JPG

Oil train safety has been a frequent topic at the Freight Mobility Roundtable.

These trains are now being limited to speeds of 50 mph, with 40 mph in urban areas that Homeland Security has designated as high threat and new federal notification requirements are in place.

At the state level, the Oil Transportation Safety Act, recently passed in the legislature, provides for notification to be made available to local governments by requiring that the state’s oil refineries provide notification of pending shipments of highly flammable cargo.

These regulations were presented to the Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable by Jason Lewis of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. 

Additionally, Ashley Probart, Executive Director of the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board (FMSIB) provided a thorough overview of the recent state transportation package

The 16 year, $16 billion package provides new revenue for many transportation investments in the region that will benefit freight.  Examples of these include, the Puget Sound Gateway project of SR 167 and SR 509, improvements to I-5 near JBLM, completing a remaining FAST Corridor project at South 228th Street in Kent, and expanding the Marysville interchange at SR 529 and I-5. 

In addition to the improvements to freight mobility, these projects will contribute significantly to direct and indirect regional employment.

For copies of the meeting materials, please visit the Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable website.  The next meeting of the Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable will be on Friday October 2nd, 2015 in the PSRC Boardroom from 7:30 – 9:00am.

 

 

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Port of Everett generates over 35,000 jobs

A new study finds that the Port of Everett supports more than 35,000 jobs in the region and contributes nearly $373 million in state and local taxes each year.

Port of Everett handles all of the oversize fuselage aerospace parts for Boeing 747, 767, and 777 aircraft.

Port of Everett handles all of the oversize fuselage aerospace parts for Boeing 747, 767, and 777 aircraft.

Port of Everett CEO/Executive Director Les Reardanz highlighted some of the findings from the study in a presentation to the Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable this month.

He noted that the port ranks second in economic output and is the third largest container port in the state.

Reardanz also discussed local and regional projects to improve access to the port, including the 41st Street freight corridor, as well as terminal rail improvements.

Also at the Roundtable, Johan Hellman of BNSF gave a railroad update, including safety issues, system reinvestment strategies, and changes in North American commodity movements.

The Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable is a public-private forum to address freight mobility needs in and through the central Puget Sound region. The next meeting of the Roundtable is August 7, 2015, 7:30-9 a.m., at PSRC.

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Oil train safety bills at Freight Roundtable

The Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable discussed two bills regarding oil train safety being considered currently in Olympia.

Five refineries in Washington are in the permitting process to allow for new transfer of Bakken Crude oil.

Oil train safety is a priority in the state legislature this session.

Both the House and Senate bills are separately calling for advanced notice of all crude oil by rail transfers to be provided and are examining varying degrees of increases in the current barrel taxes to pay for changes to oil spill response programs.

The House bill requires that railroads must demonstrate the ability to pay for worst case spills, with contingency plans being required that would be rated for “best achievable protection.”

The Senate bill recognizes that current requirements apply to maritime vessels and facilities, but does not take the added step of extending this to the railroads.

There is a strong desire in both chambers to pass something regarding oil train safety in this current legislative session, and it remains a priority in the Governor’s office as well. The Senate bill has been referred to the ways and means committee. 

Additionally, Robert Loken from the USDOT Maritime Administration provided an overview of the Marine Highways program, and discussed plans for inclusion of the central Puget Sound in a forthcoming designation being worked on by WSDOT, the PSRC, and members of the FAST Freight Advisory Committee.

The next Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable will be held in the PSRC Boardroom on Friday, June 2nd from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m.

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