Transportation Reform Bills on the Move
In addition to the transportation revenue package (SHB 1954) AGC is supporting a package of reform proposals aimed at helping transportation dollars go farther.
The bills have been pushed by House Republicans adamant about a “Fix it Before You Fund it” approach stating reforms are needed before they consider a plan to raise the gas tax and other transportation related fees. All of these bills have been given significant consideration and have moved various distances in the legislative process to date. The key will be whether and how they are incorporated into negotiations over transportation revenue measures.
The bills include:
- Expedited permitting: ESHB 1978 introduced by Rep. Hans Zeiger seeks to speed up the permitting process for transportation projects. The bill implements a new seven-step permit process for all WSDOT projects that require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). “Road permitting is a massive cost driver than can result in lengthy project delays and public frustrations” said Rep Zeiger. “This bill creates a process to streamline permitting ensuring that environmental goals are met while moving our economy forward.” This measure passed unanimously out of the House and awaits action in the Senate Transportation Committee.
- Public/Private partnerships: SSB 1979 also introduced by Zeiger would help facilitate the process for obtaining public/private partnership funding for small scale non-toll transportation projects. “This legislation allows our state to be more creative in non-toll project planning for things like ferry transit and port facilities. We need new options for funding and new partnerships to meet economic development goals” said Zeiger. The bill passed the House Transportation Committee and awaits action on the House floor.
- Engineering errors: SHB 1986 introduced by Rep. Steve OBan would require WSDOT to submit a report to the Legislature on engineering errors in excess of $500000. “I firmly believe that before we ask taxpayers for more of their paychecks we must ensure every transportation dollar is used effectively” said O’Ban. “Creating greater accountability and transparency in transportation projects is one way to rebuild the public’s trust and bring about needed changes with WSDOT particularly after the costly mistakes on the 520 Bridge and the Highway 16 interchange.” The bill passed the House and awaits action in the Senate Transportation Committee.
- Right-sizing projects: HB 1988 sponsored by Rep. Jay Rodne would direct the WSDOT to explore the cost and feasibility of expanding current software to all capital projects to ensure they are right-sized. Right-sizing is a term the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) has used to describe a lean metric-based approach to determining project investments. The goal is to find a best fit transportation solution for the context that meets the expectations of decision makers the state stakeholders and the community. The bill requires WSDOT to work with the WSTC to submit a report to the Transportation Committees on right-sizing by January 1 2014. The report must include when and where the concept has been applied within the WSDOT and must also include an assessment of the feasibility of extending the concept to all capital programs. “This bill is about using technology to improve efficiencies in our transportation system. Now more than ever it is important to maximize our return on investment to ensure we are getting the most out of every dollar before we even discuss new transportation revenue” said Rodne. The bill passed unanimously in the House and awaits action in the Senate.