WSDTlogo450OLYMPIA – As people have stayed home in efforts to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, traffic volumes have dropped significantly on highways and ferries. During an online virtual meeting, the Washington State Transportation Commission will hear about traffic impacts from the virus across the world, in other states, and in Washington.

The meeting starts 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 19. Due to the governor’s Stay Home – Stay Healthy Order issued on March 23, this meeting will be conducted using GoToWebinar. People interested in attending can find participation instructions and a link on the commission website to register.

The commission will hear from INRIX staff, who will share data on worldwide, national, and Washington state’s traffic demand changes and trends due to the COVID-19 virus. A Kirkland-based company, INRIX analyzes traffic data from road sensors and vehicles.

Staff from the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Toll Division and the Office of the State Treasurer will report on reductions in traffic volumes on the state’s toll facilities, as well as how reduced traffic has affected toll revenues and plans to assess implications of the revenue loss.

Commission staff will update commissioners on the progress of a legislatively directed study to assess the effects of tolling on low-income drivers of the Interstate 405 and State Route 167 express toll lanes, and determine possible approaches to mitigating such impacts.

Traffic volume on Washington State Ferries also has dropped significantly due to the COVID-19 virus. WSF staff will brief the commission on service changes made to maintain safe and efficient ferry service and will provide preliminary estimates of how reduced traffic has affected WSF revenues. Commissioners also will hear an update on the 2020 Ferry Riders’ Opinion Group survey schedule.   

Public comment on items on the commission’s agenda will be accepted via email. Comments should be sent to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Comments received by 4 p.m. on Monday, May 18, will be provided to commission members electronically before the meeting. Those received after that deadline will be provided to commissioners after the meeting. No action is planned to take place during the May 19 meeting.

All presentations will be available on the commission’s website before the meeting. For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit: www.wstc.wa.gov/

wsdot logoOLYMPIA – The arrival of spring typically means drivers in Washington have until March 31 to remove studded tires. However, this year the Washington State Department of Transportation is further extending the deadline to Friday, May 15, due to COVID-19 virus concerns and Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order to help reduce the spread of the virus by limiting social interactions. This extends the previous April 30 deadline.

“Washington is experiencing some extraordinary challenges with COVID-19 right now and we recognize this is not a time for ‘business as usual,’” said WSDOT Maintenance Operations Branch Manager James Morin. “People are dealing with a lot of concerns – and this further extension means getting tires changed by the end of April doesn’t need to be one of them.” 

Studded tires are legal in Washington from Nov. 1 to March 31. State law gives WSDOT authority to extend the deadline when circumstances call for it, most commonly when a forecast indicates widespread snow and ice. With most residents asked to stay home through Monday, May 4, removing studded tires before the previous deadline could be difficult for some.

Because the COVID-19 event is rapidly changing, WSDOT will re-evaluate the situation near the end of the new extension period. If no new extensions are granted at that time, the May 15 deadline means that starting at midnight on Saturday, May 16, drivers with studded tires face a $136 fine.

WSDOT encourages drivers to remove studded tires prior to the deadline, if possible. Studded tires damage pavement, so removing them promptly after winter has passed helps preserve state roadways. Tire removal services can get crowded near the removal deadline, so please plan accordingly.

Crews continue to monitor roads, passes and forecasts, and work to quickly clear any late season snow or ice. Travelers are always advised to “know before you go” by checking road conditions before heading out and staying up-to-date on changes by using WSDOT’s social media and email alert tools or calling the 5-1-1 road conditions report.

Other states may have different studded tire removal dates, but the Washington law applies to all drivers in the state, even visitors. No personal exemptions or waivers are issued.

More information about studded tire regulations in Washington is available online.

wsdot logoOLYMPIA – The arrival of spring typically means drivers in Washington have until March 31 to remove studded tires. However, this year the Washington State Department of Transportation is extending the deadline to Thursday, April 30, due to COVID-19 virus concerns and in support of Gov. Jay Inslee’s guidance to help reduce the spread of the virus by limiting social interactions.

“Washington is experiencing some extraordinary challenges with COVID-19 right now and we recognize this is not a time for ‘business as usual,’” said WSDOT Maintenance Operations Branch Manager James Morin. “People are dealing with a lot of concerns – trying to get tires changed by the end of the month doesn’t need to be one of them.” 

Studded tires are legal in Washington from Nov. 1 to March 31. State law gives WSDOT authority to extend the deadline when circumstances call for it, most commonly when a forecast indicates widespread snow and ice. Currently many employers, including tire removal services, are sending employees home to help stop the spread of the virus, so people’s ability to meet the deadline could be difficult.

Because the COVID-19 event is rapidly changing, WSDOT will re-evaluate the situation near the end of the extension period. If no new extensions are granted at that time, the April 30 deadline means that starting at midnight on Friday, May 1, drivers with studded tires face a $136 fine.

WSDOT encourages drivers to remove studded tires prior to the deadline, if possible. Studded tires damage pavement, so removing them promptly after winter has passed helps preserve state roadways. Tire removal services can get crowded near the removal deadline, so please plan accordingly.

Crews continue to monitor roads, passes and forecasts, and work to quickly clear any late season snow or ice. Travelers are always advised to “know before you go” by checking road conditions before heading out and staying up-to-date on changes by using WSDOT’s social media and email alert tools or calling the 5-1-1 road conditions report.

Other states may have different studded tire removal dates, but the Washington law applies to all drivers in the state, even visitors. No personal exemptions or waivers are issued.

More information about studded tire regulations in Washington is available online.

wsdot logoAs state and national efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 continue, the Washington State Department of Transportation is temporarily suspending the Free Coffee Volunteer Program at safety rest areas, beginning Monday, March 16, until further notice. Statewide, 37 of our 47 safety rest areas offer the Free Coffee Program. This is a continuation of efforts to slow the spread of the virus through social distancing, minimizing touch points and limiting close personal contact.

Visitors to the Evergreen State have been receiving free coffee via the popular volunteer-run stations for more than 20 years. The program benefits drivers and allows groups to collect donations for non-profits.

It is important to note, that all of the state’s 47 rest areas remain open. WSDOT has implemented additional precautions to disinfect rest areas including more frequent cleaning of touch points, and refilling of soap and hand sanitizer.

WSDOT’s top priority is the safety of our staff and the traveling public.

WSDTlogo450OLYMPIA – State and regional plans to address future transportation needs are the focus of the State Transportation Commission’s meeting next week in Olympia. The meeting includes briefings on three regional long-range plans, development of the state’s Active Transportation Plan, status of the Highway System Plan update, and planning efforts underway to bring High Speed Rail to Washington.

The meeting starts at 9 a.m. both Tuesday, March 17, and Wednesday, March 18, at the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. The meeting is open to the public and persons wishing to speak to the commission may do so during public comment periods at the end of each day.

The emphasis on long-range transportation planning at this meeting reflects the commission’s commitment to on-going implementation of WTP 2040 and Beyond, the statewide transportation plan, which the commission adopted in December 2018. The plan set the stage for identifying projects, investment strategies, and responsibilities for tackling critical needs statewide. It provides guidance for local and state plans to work in concert to keep Washington moving. This agenda looks in depth at how WTP 2040 and Beyond has influenced regional and state plans, including those from Thurston County Regional Planning Council, Island County Regional Transportation Planning Organization, and Peninsula Regional Transportation Planning Organization.

On Tuesday morning, the commission will hear an update on the state’s toll facilities, including the State Route 99 tunnel performance, and traffic and revenue updates for all tolled facilities. Later, the co-author of Pricing Roads, Advancing Equity, will talk about how several North American cities, including Seattle; Vancouver, British Columbia; San Francisco and Los Angeles, are exploring downtown congestion pricing as a way to solve several urban transportation problems at once, including the opportunity to improve transportation options in places that have been underserved.

Tuesday afternoon, the Washington State Department of Transportation will brief the commission on how the agency’s collaborative approach with Metropolitan and Regional Transportation Planning Organizations provides an opportunity to rethink how to prioritize, program and fund investments in the transportation system. Presentations also will be given by WSDOT staff on development of an Active Transportation plan and the process being used for the Highway System Plan update.

Wednesday morning WSDOT staff will provide an overview of the work to date by the states of Oregon and Washington, the province of British Columbia, and multiple other private and public partners to examine the options for regional High Speed Rail.

Finally, Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar will present a state and national perspective on Cooperative Automated Transportation (CAT). An integrated way to improve safety, mobility, and operations efficiency, CAT enables all modes of transportation to work together through interdependent vehicle and systems automation and information exchange.

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

WSDTlogo450OLYMPIA – Topics related to the future of the transportation system are on the Washington State Transportation Commission’s meeting agenda for next week. Discussions will include recent federal guidance on the advancement of autonomous vehicles, capabilities of our electrical grid to accommodate continued growth in electric vehicles, addressing future funding needs, and possible ways to simplify ferry fares in the future.

The transportation commission will hold its monthly meeting starting at 9 a.m. both Wednesday, Feb. 19, and Thursday, Feb. 20, at the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. The meeting is open to the public and persons wishing to speak to the commission may do so during public comment periods at the end of each day.

On Wednesday, staff from the Utilities and Transportation Commission will present information on the ability of the electrical grid to handle the growing number of electric vehicles in Washington state, considering future levels of electric vehicle adoption.

Staff from the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Innovative Partnerships Program will update the commission on a transit-oriented development project at the Kingsgate Park and Ride lot. WSDOT is partnering with Sound Transit, King County Metro, and the City of Kirkland to better utilize the existing park and ride lot to accommodate additional parking, housing and commercial development, while enhancing transit access.

Wednesday afternoon, the commission will take up a request from residents and organizations from Klickitat County to name US 97 through their county the “World War II Veterans Memorial Highway.”

The Office of the State Treasurer will provide a report on State Route 520 toll rate performance. Each year, the State Treasurer assesses the current SR 520 toll rates to ensure they will meet financing requirements. In addition, staff will brief the commission on the State Treasurer’s recent assessment of the state’s debt load, its value and its costs.

Next, the commission will receive a briefing on new guidance and standards recently issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation on automated vehicle operations and technologies. This briefing will contrast the federal approach to autonomous vehicle development and guidance with the approach taken in Europe and elsewhere. 

Also on Wednesday, the commission will hear an overview of the Joint Transportation Committee’s study assessing statewide transportation funding needs and priorities, and identifying ways in which to address them. The final report of findings and recommendations are due to the state legislature by Dec. 31, 2020.

On Thursday, Washington State Ferries will brief the commission on its fare simplification study. The study assessed the existing fare structure and its evolution over time, and identified the opportunities and challenges for simplifying the fare structure. WSF also will discuss its initial work investigating a low-income fare pilot as authorized by the commission last year. If funded by the Legislature, this pilot would test a special passenger fare for low-income customers, for up to three years.

Also Thursday, the commission will receive an update on the Ferry Riders Opinion Group (FROG) survey panel made up of nearly 25,000 ferry riders. This briefing will provide an overview of upcoming  surveys and  focus areas for  2020 . Each year, the commission surveys ferry riders to better inform WSF level of service, operational, pricing, planning, and investment decisions. People interested in joining the FROG can sign up at: ferryridersopiniongroup.com

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

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The Washington State Legislature will ultimately decide if a road usage charge will be implemented in Washington

OLYMPIA – People who are interested in how a Road Usage Charge might work in Washington can now download the full report from the Washington Road Usage Charge Pilot Project website. On Jan. 13, the Washington State Transportation Commission transmitted their final report to the governor, state Legislature and Federal Highway Administration on how Washington can begin a transition away from the state gas tax and toward a road usage charge system.

In collaboration with the Washington Road Usage Charge Steering Committee, the WSTC’S report includes analysis and findings of the legal, fiscal, operational, and policy impacts of a road usage charge and provides recommendations and options on how RUC could be implemented in Washington.

The state legislature will ultimately decide if a road usage charge will be implemented in Washington. Should the Legislature move forward with a road usage charge, it must consider several key topics, all of which the commission’s final report addressed. Those include how to: gradually transition to a RUC system, determine what vehicles should be subject to paying a RUC, determine the per-mile rate policy, set forth the allowable use of RUC revenue, and determine details around how a RUC program would be implemented.

“We thank the steering committee and volunteer pilot project participants for contributing to years of research and analysis on this innovative transportation funding policy,” said Jerry Litt, chair of the Washington State Transportation Commission. “We believe road usage charging is a promising and viable option for Washington, and we look forward to having the Legislature consider a gradual but necessary transition away from relying on the consumption of fossil fuel to fund our roads.”

The 29-member Road Usage Charge Steering Committee has guided Washington’s assessment of road usage charging since 2012. The committee supported and advised on the development of the RUC pilot project and submitted its final report on its road usage charging findings to the commission in October 2019. Based upon the findings of the steering committee, the commission determined its final set of recommendations and their final report, which details the results of the 7-year-long assessment of road usage charging. It includes the 12-month-long test drive portion of the pilot project that involved more than 2,000 statewide drivers who logged 15 million miles from February 2018 to January 2019.

As vehicles become more fuel-efficient or switch to electric power, gas tax revenue is expected to decline by as much as 45 percent by 2035. In 2012, the Legislature directed the commission to assess the potential of a road usage charge to replace the gas tax. A road usage charge is a per-mile charge drivers would pay for the use of the roads, as opposed to paying by the gallon of gas.

wsdot logoSecond Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission meeting Jan. 9

OLYMPIA – 2020 kicks off with more work researching and discussing the location of Washington’s next commercial airport as the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC) meets Jan. 9, at Sea-Tac Airport.

The commission will narrow down possible airport sites based on previous research as well as factors including airspace, local land use, environmental impacts, market demand and community input.

The group will present the ongoing Puget Sound Regional Council Aviation Baseline Study and discuss a sustainable vision for Washington’s aviation system, including ways to accommodate capacity at existing airports.

The meeting is open to the public, but does not include a public comment period.

The CACC’s 15 voting and 11 nonvoting members include representatives from the aviation and freight industries, private citizens, state and local agencies and elected officials. The Washington State Department of Transportation provides the commission technical assistance and staff support from its Aviation Division.

The commission’s first meeting was Oct. 30, 2019, at the state Capitol Campus in Olympia and included discussion of the administrative process, goals of the group and previous aviation studies.

The Legislature created the CACC to determine how Washington can meet future commercial aviation demands. Final recommendations are due to the Legislature in January 2022.

To keep up with documents and information, visit the CACC website.

Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission meeting:

When:            10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 9

Where:           Sea-Tac Airport, Central Auditorium

Details:           The meeting is open to the public but no public comment period is scheduled.

WSDTlogo450Commission recommends a gradual approach to adoption; recommendations now move on to the legislature

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Transportation Commission adopted recommendations today, Tuesday, Dec. 17, on how Washington can begin a transition away from the state gas tax and toward a road usage charge system.

The commission based its recommendations on extensive research, statewide public engagement, as well detailed analysis of the participant feedback and system performance of the 12-month Washington Road Usage Charge Pilot Project. These recommendations, along with the Road Usage Charge Steering Committee’s final report, will be transmitted to the Washington State Legislature, Governor Jay Inslee and the Federal Highway Administration in January 2020.

At the core of these recommendations, the Legislature is encouraged to begin a slow and gradual transition away from the gas tax, starting with requiring vehicles in the state-owned fleet to pay a road usage charge in lieu of the gas tax. The commission also recommends applying a road usage charge to electric vehicle owners who pay no gas tax and hybrid vehicle owners who pay little gas tax. The recommendations include taking the time during this gradual transition period to conduct additional research, such as collaborating with other states on cross-border travel, reducing administrative and operational costs, and assessing compliance gaps and potential enforcement measures. The commission did not offer a timeline for a full transition of all vehicles in the state to a road usage charge, recommending that should not occur for at least 10 years and likely several decades as many cars continue to pay the gas tax.

“This is an important first step in ensuring future funding security for Washington’s aging roads and bridges,” said Jerry Litt, chair of the Washington State Transportation Commission. “Revenues from our state gas tax will begin to decline as vehicle fuel efficiency continues to increase. We are already struggling to ensure adequate funding to maintain our system of roads and bridges today. Thanks to the pilot project and years of research, we believe road usage charging is a promising and viable option for the Legislature to consider, and now is the time to begin a gradual but necessary transition away from relying on the consumption of fossil fuel to fund our roads.”

A 29-member Road Usage Charge Steering Committee has guided Washington’s assessment of road usage charging since 2012. The committee supported and advised development of the pilot test drive and prepared its final report on road usage charging in Washington earlier this year. Based upon the findings of the steering committee, the commission determined its final set of recommendations and their final report to be issued in January 2020 will detail the results of the seven-year-long assessment of road usage charging. It includes the 12-month-long test drive portion of the pilot project that included over 2,000 statewide drivers driving 15 million miles from February 2018 to January 2019.

“We appreciate the time and effort our pilot project participants dedicated, through reporting their miles driven, completing surveys, participating in focus groups, and sharing thoughtful questions and comments with us.” said Joe Tortorelli, chair of the Road Usage Charge Steering Committee and member of the Washington State Transportation Commission. “Feedback from participants and members of the general public helped inform the final report and recommendations. We look forward to sharing this report with the legislature early next year.”

As vehicles become more fuel-efficient or switch to electric power, gas tax revenue is expected to decline by as much as 45 percent by 2035. In 2012, the Legislature directed the commission to assess the potential of a road usage charge to replace the gas tax. A road usage charge is a per-mile charge drivers would pay for the use of the roads, as opposed to paying by the gallon of gas.

WSDTlogo450OLYMPIA – The Washington State Transportation Commission will take action next week on policy recommendations to the Washington State Legislature on whether and when the state should consider implementing a Road Usage Charge (RUC) system as a possible replacement to the gas tax.

The commission meeting starts at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 17, and at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18, at the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. The meeting is open to the public and persons wishing to speak to the commission may do so during public comment periods each day, including a public comment opportunity prior to commission action on its road usage charging recommendations.

The commission will take final action at 1 p.m. Tuesday on its findings and recommendations related to whether and when a RUC system could replace the gas tax to fund roads and bridges. A RUC is a per-mile charge drivers would pay for the use of roads, as opposed to paying by the gallon of gas. Because gasoline is taxed by the gallon, as vehicles become more fuel-efficient or switch to electric power, gas tax revenue is expected to decline by as much as 45 percent by 2035. In 2012, the Legislature directed the commission to assess the potential of a RUC to replace the gas tax.

The final RUC report will detail the results of a 7-year-long assessment of road usage charging and a pilot project that involved more than 2,000 drivers statewide in a live test of RUC. The commission will consider the work of the RUC steering committee, results and findings from the test-driving phase of the pilot project, input from the pilot participants, and input from the public, as they finalize recommendations and next steps. The commission will submit the report to the governor, Legislature and the Federal Highway Administration in January 2020.

Also on Tuesday, the commission will receive an update on current traffic and revenue data for all tolled facilities, including the State Route 99 tunnel. Commission staff will present an overview of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge loan report, which the commission will submit to the Legislature in January, indicating the amount of loan needed to avoid a toll rate increase next year. The commission also will discuss the work plan and schedule for a legislatively directed study it will conduct to assess the possibility of discounted tolls and other programs to assist low-income drivers.

Commissioners also will hear the findings and recommendations from the lead consultant who conducted an analysis of congestion pricing in downtown Seattle. Congestion pricing is a charge drivers pay when they enter the most congested areas at the busiest times. Commissioned by the transportation network company Uber, the study considered whether charging all drivers could be an alternative to direct taxes or licensing limitations imposed on transportation network companies.

Tuesday afternoon the commission will continue its ongoing examination of the policy issues related to vehicle automation. John Niles, co-author of a book on autonomous vehicles, will discuss the potential effects on communities and public safety of shifting 50 percent or more of today’s privately owned and human-operated vehicles to automated vehicles.

On Wednesday, the commission will take action to adopt its annual report to the Legislature, which includes a number of recommendations on transportation policy and funding. Commissioners also will hear briefings on policy topics including, development of Vision 2050, the Puget Sound Regional Council’s newest long-range plan; an update to the Washington State Department of Transportation’s state plan for passenger and freight rail; and, a study underway by WSDOT’s aviation division to evaluate the potential for using electric aircraft in passenger air service.

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