wsdot logoOLYMPIA – The Washington State Transportation Commission is reviewing several tolling items during meetings Dec. 12 and 13. Topics include a two-year review of the I-405 Express Toll Lanes, initial consideration of traffic and revenue analysis for the State Route 99 tunnel under Seattle and options to maintain current toll rates on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

The meetings start at 9a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 12 and Wednesday, Dec. 13, at the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. These meetings are open to the public. Those wishing to speak to the commission can during public comment periods after key agenda items during the meetings.

On Dec. 12, the Washington State Department of Transportation Toll Division will present initial traffic and toll revenue projections for the tunnel replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct portion of SR 99. The Washington State Legislature has directed that tolls raise $200 million toward project construction costs over time. Although the commission will not adopt toll rates until fall 2018, the data  will be used to determine how toll rates will vary by time of day to manage congestion on the facility and impacts on surface streets.

Two additional toll facilities are also on the agenda Dec. 12. at 1 p.m., WSDOT will report on the performance of the I-405 Express Toll Lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood, which have been in operation for two full years. The briefing will include data regarding use of the I-405 Express Toll Lanes, changes in corridor congestion, net revenue collected and results of a survey of public reaction and attitudes. Officials from two of the transit agencies using the lanes will report on their travel times and ridership before and after ETL implementation.

The Tuesday, Dec. 12 meeting concludes with an update on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge  financial plan, followed by a report from a work group the commission led to assess options for providing long-term toll payer relief for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The work group recommendations will be delivered to the legislature in January 2018.

During the Dec. 13 meeting, the commission will hear a progress report on planning for the Road Usage Charge Pilot Project prior to launch early in 2018. A road usage charge (RUC) is a per-mile charge drivers would pay for the use of the roads. It is under consideration as a potential replacement for the gas tax drivers now pay on a gallon of gasoline. A RUC may provide a more sustainable funding source for transportation infrastructure, in light of growing fuel efficiency of new vehicles, which consume less gas. The pilot project will engage 2,000 volunteers from across the state to test the concept and shape how it might work.

The Dec. 13 meeting agenda also includes a report from WSDOT on the work it is doing to prepare for connected and autonomous vehicles in the state.

For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit: www.wstc.wa.gov/.

LarsenOlympia, WA: The Washington State Transit Association (WSTA) is pleased to announce the formation of the Bipartisan Congressional Bus Caucus (BCBC) to be Co-Chaired by Congressmen Rick Larsen from Washington’s 1st Congressional District in Northwest Washington and Congressman David Young, (R-IA).

“As someone who uses public transportation every day, I understand just how critical safe and reliable bus systems are for working Americans,” said Larsen. “With more than 195 million passenger trips in Washington state annually, I am thrilled to co-chair the Congressional Bus Caucus – robust investment in buses and transportation will keep the economy thriving.”
 
The purpose of the Bus Caucus is to give a stronger voice to more than 1,100 bus transit systems across the country, 31 in Washington State, and highlight the need for adequate federal funding of bus transit programs.
 
As federal spending for public transportation has been limited, transit agencies have expressed frustration that there is not enough money to fund the needs of both heavy rail systems and bus agencies.

The Bus Caucus seeks to highlight the benefits of investing in bus systems, the challenges accompanying aging bus fleets and facilities, and encourage innovation in a rapidly changing transportation climate. The Caucus will raise awareness on Capitol Hill by holding occasional events to highlight the importance of transit agencies striving to deliver reliable service and meet a state of good repair.
 
“There is a mountain of need by every transit agency in our state for expansion and replacement of their fleets and facilities so we are pleased to see Rep. Larsen take the lead on the Bus Caucus as our agencies and passengers need a strong voice on Capitol Hill,” said Justin D. Leighton, WSTA Executive Director, which represents every transit agency in Washington State.
 
Buses are the unsung hero in our nation’s transportation network, providing more than 51% of transit trips per year. They have an even greater role in Washington State as they provide over 85% of the total 230 million public transportation trips taken in the state.
 
“As President of The Bus Coalition and General Manager of Link Transit, I see how funding cuts at the federal, state and local level are impacting bus systems of all sizes,” said Wenatchee transit executive Richard DeRock. The Bus Coalition is a transit industry advocacy group focused on issues specific to bus agencies.
 
“Many agencies are struggling to keep up with aging fleets and crumbling transit facilities. We know when systems age and service is cut, the rider experience suffers and ridership declines. That’s why I’m so excited about the formation of a new Congressional Caucus that will shine light on the needs of the bus transit community and give voice to a transportation asset that is so important to our local and national economy,” DeRock said.
 
Rep. Denny Heck (WA-10) joins Larsen as a founding member of the Bus Caucus. A total of nine members of Congress have joined.
 
“We encourage the remaining members of the Washington State Congressional Delegation to join their colleagues in this effort,” said Leighton. “This issue is vitally important to Washington’s transit agencies and their customers.

wsdot logoOfficials join WSDOT in ribbon-cutting event

CHELAN – Chelan Mayor Mike Cooney will participate with Washington State Department of Transportation staff and local residents 10 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 29, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of a new roundabout on SR 150 at No See-Um Road.

The roundabout is one of several Connecting Washington transportation projects completed this year, bringing safety, economic, environmental and mobility improvements to local areas throughout the state.

Construction began in April and includes a roundabout, local road improvements, a shared use pedestrian and bicycle path, new bus stops and major improvements to water and sewer lines.

The ceremony will be on the shared use bicycle/pedestrian path in the southeast quadrant of the new roundabout. 

Parking will be available at Don Morse Memorial Park with a shuttle, starting at 9:30 a.m., to the site.

If there is heavy rain or snow, the event will be held in the Chelan City Council Chambers, 135 East Johnson.

wsdot logoWSDOT seeks public input on the draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, Nov. 21 – Dec. 20

OLYMPIA – For those who want to know what transportation projects are in store for their community, now is the time to find out. The Washington State Department of Transportation has released a statewide listing of upcoming local and state transportation improvement projects scheduled in the next four years.

WSDOT is asking for public review and comment starting today, Tuesday, Nov. 21, through Wednesday, Dec. 20, on the draft 2018-2021 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

The online program of projects have been identified through state, metropolitan, regional, tribal and local planning processes, and are the highest priority for the available funding to preserve and improve the state's transportation network.

About the STIP

The STIP is a multimodal, four-year, fiscally constrained, prioritized program of transportation projects compiled from local transportation programs, metropolitan and regional transportation improvement programs. Federally funded projects must be included in the STIP before the Federal Highway Administration or Federal Transit Administration can authorize the expenditure of federal funds.

More than 1,400 statewide transportation improvement projects using $3.5 billion in federal funds are included in the 2018-21 STIP. The projects include state, tribal and local roadway, bridge, safety, bicycle, pedestrian and public transportation (transit) improvements, funded with revenues from federal, state, tribal and local sources.

The STIP is developed annually by WSDOT in coordination with statewide metropolitan and rural transportation planning organizations. This collaborative effort ensures that projects are consistent with local, regional and state long-range plans. Several projects may carry over as they move from design, to permitting and, finally, to construction. Some county projects are not included in the draft STIP because state law requires counties to complete their transportation programs by the end of the year; those projects are amended into the final STIP in January.

 

The current 2017-20 STIP can be viewed online and a similar, searchable database of the 2018-21 STIP will be created in early 2018, following FHWA and FTA approval.

How to comment

The public comment period for the draft STIP is Tuesday, Nov. 21, to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20. Written comments can be sent to: Nancy Huntley, WSDOT, P.O. Box 47390, Olympia, WA 98504-7390, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by fax at 360-705-6822.

The comment period is the final step of the community engagement process that began locally. Comments received will be sent to the local or regional planning organization for their consideration. 

wsdot logoLeave early, use tools to make holiday travel smoother

OLYMPIA – Whether crossing the state or just running to the store for a last-minute ingredient, be sure to allow plenty of extra travel time during the busy Thanksgiving weekend.

The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to “know before you go” and plan head for smoother travel.

The agency also provides several tools to help plan holiday travels:

  • Consult WSDOT’s travel times charts, which use historical information to help drivers know before they go.
  • Check out online tools, including mobile apps, traffic cameras and email alerts.
  • Visit our online traveler information about traffic, weather and ferry schedules.
  • Follow WSDOT’s social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Pre-program 530 AM and 1610 AM to vehicle radios for highway advisory radio alerts.
  • Carry chains and other winter driving essentials.
  • Check current chain and traction requirements on the WSDOT passes website or by calling 5-1-1, and watch for highway advisory signs.
  • Leave extra time for holiday and winter travel, slow down and drive appropriately for conditions.

 

Apple Cup travel

Those traveling to the Saturday, Nov. 25, Apple Cup football game in Seattle should also plan ahead for possible winter weather on passes and allow extra travel time both to and from the game.

Mountain passes

In the mountains, State Route 123 Cayuse Pass (elevation 4,675 feet), State Route 20 North Cascades Highway (elevation 5,477 feet) and Chinook Pass (elevation 5,430 feet) are closed for the winter. On Snoqualmie Pass (elevation 3,022), you can receive text alerts for pass delays 30 minutes or longer – text “wsdot snoqualmie” to 468311 to subscribe, and “wsdot stop” to unsubscribe.

Tolls

In the Puget Sound, the State Route 520 bridge will have weekend toll rates on Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, returning to weekday rates on Friday, Nov. 24. On the Interstate 405 express toll lanes, travel is free to all on the Thanksgiving holiday, returning to normal toll and HOV requirements from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday. Weekends are always free to travel in the lanes. Out-of-town travelers, including those using rental cars, can learn about toll roads and short term account options on the Good to Go! visitors page.

Other travel alternatives

Travelers planning a trip by ferry, train, personal aircraft or bus also should make plans to avoid holiday delays:

  • Please plan ahead for heavy holiday ferry traffic and consider purchasing tickets online to save time. The longest lines are expected westbound Wednesday afternoon and evening, Nov. 22, and eastbound Friday morning, Nov. 24. Reservations are recommended on the San Juan and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes. Some ferry routes run on Saturday schedules on the holiday, check the Washington State Ferries website or call 888-808-7977 for details.
  • Amtrak Cascades passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early and should plan to arrive at the station one hour before departure. All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations and trains fill up quickly during holidays. Visit amtrakcascades.com/ or call 800–USA–RAIL for details. (There are no extra Thanksgiving trains this year).
  • For information about traveling via state-operated airports, visit wsdot.wa.gov/aviation/airports/Amenities.htm or call 800-552-0666.
  • Check with your local public transit agency for any holiday schedule or service changes, including some Dial-A-Ride and fixed-route service that may not run on holidays