Autonomous vehicle policy and road usage charging focus of WSTC’s Oct. 15 – 16 meeting
- Written by Reema Griffith, WSTC executive director
OLYMPIA – At its October meeting, the Washington State Transportation Commission will take action on policy recommendations to the legislature on testing and deploying autonomous vehicles. The commission also will begin drafting its final report to the legislature assessing whether the state should consider implementing a Road Usage Charge system as a possible replacement to the gas tax.
The meeting starts at 9 a.m. both Tuesday, Oct. 15, and Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. The commission meeting is open to the public and persons wishing to speak to the commission may do so at public comment times at the end of each day.
On Tuesday morning, the commission will receive a briefing on a study of city transportation needs completed earlier this year for the Joint Transportation Committee. The study concluded that city transportation investments fall short by half of what is needed. In addition to the report’s findings and recommendations, commissioners will hear the reaction from two of the case study cities.
The remainder of Tuesday’s agenda is devoted to the topic of exploring a potential replacement to the gas tax to fund roads and bridges. Because gasoline is taxed by the gallon, as vehicles become more fuel efficient or switch to electric power, gas tax revenue will decline. 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 (RUC) is a per mile charge drivers would pay for the use of the roads, as opposed to paying by the gallon of gas.
The commission, with the assistance of a stakeholder steering committee, has determined that road usage charging is feasible and that over time it can generate more revenue than the gas tax, as cars become more fuel efficient. To test how such a system could work in Washington and evaluate different ways of recording and reporting mileage, more than 2,000 Washington drivers participated in a year-long Washington Road Usage Charge pilot project. With the conclusion of the pilot, the commission is now ready to report on its findings, including the RUC experience of other states.
Oregon, the first state in the country to implement a RUC, now has several hundred vehicles paying by the mile for using its roads. Oregon Department of Transportation staff will brief the commission about legislation enacted in Oregon earlier this year to stabilize and expand its road usage charge program.
Then, the commission will consider the work of its road usage charge steering committee, results and findings from the test-driving phase of the Washington RUC pilot project, and reactions of pilot participants, as it drafts its report recommending next steps. Commissioners will identify preliminary findings and recommendations for the 2020 legislature, and provide direction regarding the RUC Assessment Final Report. They also will discuss a proposal on gathering public input in November on the preliminary recommendations.
On Wednesday, the commission will act on several policy recommendations forwarded to it from a broad-based Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Work Group that includes members from the private sector, state and local government, and the legislature. Established in 2018, the legislature created the AV Work Group to enable Washington state to address the public policy issues raised by emerging AV technology in an informed, thorough, and deliberate manner. The briefing and discussion led by the work group chair and its subcommittees will frame the commission’s report to the Legislature and Governor on testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles in our state.
The commission also will hear a brief update on preparations for tolling the State Route 99 tunnel and receive a report on a recent study of the Interstate 405 express toll lanes by the Washington State Transportation Center. Using data from each trip made on the I-405 express toll lanes during operating hours, demographic data on census block groups, and lane speed, volume, and travel time data, the study reveals insights into how the express toll lanes are used, the benefits they provide to the region, and how these benefits are distributed among different groups of noncommercial users.
For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit: www.wstc.wa.gov/
Public invited to comment online about stormwater management plan
- Written by Jana Ratcliff, Environmental Services Office, WSDOT
WSDOT accepting public input Oct. 7 - 18
WSDOT is responsible for managing stormwater from highways, rest areas, park-and-ride lots, ferry terminals and maintenance facilities in urban areas throughout the state. In spring 2019, the state Department of Ecology issued WSDOT a permit that regulates stormwater from these paved surfaces. As part of that permit, WSDOT is required to submit to Ecology a stormwater management plan by Oct. 31, describing how the agency will implement the permit’s requirements.
Any comments WSDOT receives by Oct. 18 will be considered before finalizing the plan this year. WSDOT will consider comments received after the deadline in next year’s plan update.
Managing stormwater from highways and other paved surfaces is important to traveler safety and for water quality in streams and underground water supplies. Untreated, stormwater can carry pollutants downstream and can cause flooding and erosion that might lead to roadway damage.
West Coast transportation commissions gather in Wash. to discuss rural transportation issues, Sept. 16-17
- Written by Reema Griffith, WSTC Executive Director, WSDOT
STEVENSON, Wash. – Transportation challenges unique to rural areas will be highlighted in a meeting between the transportation commissions from Washington state, Oregon and California this month in Stevenson, Washington. Presenters from the three states will lead discussions on rural freight-movement challenges; the connection between reliable rural access, jobs and economic growth; emergency access and enabling response; and road usage charging efforts in all three states.
The tri-state meeting is from 8 a.m. to noon Monday, Sept. 16, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 17, at Skamania Lodge, 1131 Skamania Lodge Dr., Stevenson. The meeting is open to the public and persons wishing to speak to the commissions may do so during the public comment period at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday.
Following opening remarks from each state’s commission chair, Monday’s meeting kicks off with a panel discussion of the complex supply chains involving trucks, trains, barges and planes that move rural freight from farm to markets across the country and the world. Another panel will focus on reliable transportation access in rural areas. Panelists will discuss how highways, public transportation, rural airports and trails all uniquely contribute to sustainable economic development and opportunity.
On Monday afternoon, commissioners from the three states will tour the regional area on both sides of the Columbia River, and make stops at a few businesses to hear first-hand the transportation challenges they face in moving product and conducting business in a rural setting. The commissioners will also get a briefing on the Hood River Bridge and will view a bicycle-pedestrian facility on Oregon’s Historic Columbia River Highway.
During Tuesday’s meeting, each state will share how it responds to natural disasters – from wildfires to seismic events – and the role transportation agencies and infrastructure plays in response and recovery. Panelists will include an Okanogan County commissioner who has worked on partnerships and planning to better respond to region-wide wildfires, and the mayor of Paradise, California, the town in the Sierra foothills ravaged by fire last fall.
Other meeting topics include a briefing from the administrators of the Federal Highway Administration in each state, and the latest work by each state to address declining revenue from the gas tax as cars and trucks become more fuel-efficient. The three West Coast states lead the nation in developing a road usage charge as an alternative funding source to replace the gas tax.
Since 2009, the Washington State Transportation Commission has met periodically with its colleagues in California and/or Oregon to share strategies for addressing common issues and to identify opportunities for collaboration. During their 2018 meeting, the three state bodies focused on technology and transportation.
The meeting will be webcast live on tvw.org.
For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit: www.wstc.wa.gov/
Labor Day weekend means more travelers, extra travel time
- Written by Barbara LaBoe, WSDOT Communications
Plan ahead, use WSDOT tools to stay in the know before and during trips
OLYMPIA – The last holiday weekend of the summer typically brings additional traffic, so planning ahead and allowing extra travel time is even more critical as Labor Day approaches.
Travelers can consult the Washington State Department of Transportation’s holiday-weekend traffic volume charts to help plan the best times to travel on key routes. If possible, altering travel to less busy times can improve individual trips and help keep all traffic flowing more freely. Those venturing out on land or sea can also use several WSDOT tools to keep updated throughout the trip.
Know before you go
- Check WSDOT’s mobile app, Facebook page, multiple Twitteraccounts and online tools for traffic information and ferry schedules. (When driving, have a passenger check online updates or pull over to safe place before using electronic devices).
- Call the 511 travel information hotline. For out-of-state callers, it’s 1-800-695-ROAD (7623).
- Pre-program vehicle radios to 530 AM and 1610 AM for highway advisory radio alerts.
- Carry extra water, snacks and other supplies in case you’re delayed along the way.
Statewide construction halted, but expect holiday travel delays -- especially on passes
To ease congestion statewide, WSDOT suspends most state highway construction work during the holiday weekend, starting Friday, Aug. 30, through Monday, Sept. 2. This includes Interstate 90 from North Bend to Vantage, but some construction zone detours will remain in place. Traffic is always heavy over Snoqualmie Pass on summer weekends – especially Labor Day – so travelers should allow extra travel time or consider traveling during non-peak times, typically early in the day or later in the evening.
In the Puget Sound, weekend toll rates will be in effect on Monday, Sept. 2, on the State Route 520 bridge. The Interstate 405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers on the Monday holiday. Travelers can learn about toll roads and rental car tips on the GoodToGo visitors page.
Washington State Ferries passengers should expect heavier traffic during the holiday weekend and reservations are strongly recommended for the Anacortes/San Juan Islands; Anacortes/Sidney, British Columbia; and Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry routes.
- Reservations can be made onlineor by calling 888-808-7977.
- Visit the schedules and best travel times website for more details.
Other travel considerations
Travelers planning to avoid highway congestion by traveling via train, personal aircraft or transit also should factor the holiday into their plans:
- Amtrak Cascades passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early and should plan to arrive at the station one hour before departure. Book nowor call 800–USA–RAIL for details.
- Check the status of state-operated airports online or by calling 800-552-0666.
- Most public transit systems will follow a holiday schedule, and some transit systems will not operate fixed-route or Dial-A-Ride service on holidays. For details, check with the local transit system.
Beacon electrical repairs will require temporary signage change on US 2/97 between Monitor and Dryden
- Written by Lauren Loebsack, WSDOT Communications
CASHMERE – Beginning Monday, Aug. 26, a contractor for the Washington State Department of Transportation will begin work to repair and upgrade wiring to the flashing beacons at intersections of US 2/97 between Monitor and Dryden.
During the work, the “Prepare to Stop When Flashing” signs with flashing beacons that correspond with the change of intersection signal lights from green to red, will be covered. A temporary sign without any lights will inform travelers to “Be Prepared to Stop” while the contractor performs necessary repairs to ensure these flashing lights continue to work properly.
Five intersections between Monitor and Dryden will have the beacons shut off for repairs in the following weeks. These include:
- US 2/97 and E. Main St. / Easy St. at Monitor,
- US 2/97 and Cotlets Way / Eels Rd.,
- US 2/97 and Aplets Way / Nahahum Canyon Rd.,
- US 2/97 and Hay Canyon Rd. / Goodwin Rd.,
- US 2/97 and Dryden Ave. / Johnson Rd.
For the week of August 26, the contractor will be working at the US 2/97 intersections of Dryden Ave./ Johnson Rd. at Dryden and Hay Canyon/Goodwin Rd. at Cashmere. Future updates on this project will be available on the North Central region construction and travel advisory webpage.
This work will not affect signal timing at these intersections, but the change of warning signage will mean that drivers will not have the flashing beacons to indicate that an intersection signal is changing from green to red. With a speed of 60 mph on this section of the highway, it is imperative that travelers on this section of road are attentive and use caution when approaching these intersections during the project.
Multiple open houses in August on plans for future work on US 97A/SR 971
- Written by Lauren Loebsack, WSDOT communications
Public input sought in person and online to help develop traffic control plans during rock slope scaling work in 2020
Travelers who regularly use US 97A can help choose the best times for rock slope scaling work during the 2020 construction season.
The Washington State Department of Transportation is seeking public comment regarding the best time for closures during the much needed work. Specialized contractors will remove loose rock and debris from the slopes adjacent to US 97A to reduce the risk of it falling onto the highway.
All of this work takes time, during which traffic cannot travel through the work zone. At the upcoming in person and the online open houses, the public can comment on whether all day or short closures of approximately 30 minutes make more sense for the area. Longer closures mean more work can be accomplished but with more affect to travel times, and vice versa for shorter duration choices.
US 97A/SR 971 rock slope scaling work in person open houses
When: 4 – 7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 14
Where: Chelan City Hall
135 E Johnson Ave.
When: 4 – 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 20
Where: Entiat Grange
14108 Kinzel St.
During both of the in-person open houses, learn more about the options of closure times when WSDOT crews start working on the rock slope scaling in 2020. Responses received from the open houses will help determine the timing and length of the closures to complete the work.
Online open house
Those unable to attend either open house, or who want to review the information and options prior to a meeting, can visit the online open house.
One-hour trips from Seattle to greater Vancouver, BC, and Portland could transform regional travel
- Written by Janet Matkin, WSDOT Communications
New study finds numerous benefits to ultra-high-speed travel
OLYMPIA – Ultra-high-speed ground transportation could transform the Pacific Northwest by decreasing travel time, improving overall mobility and boosting economic growth, according to new study of the concept.
The Ultra-High-Speed Ground Transportation Business Case Analysis examined travel times of less than two-hour trips between Vancouver, British Columbia and Portland, Oregon, and one-hour trips between Seattle and each city. The study, which expands on a 2017-2018 preliminary examination, was delivered to the Washington State Legislature on July 12.
The ultra-high-speed system is projected to travel at speeds exceeding 200 mph, via high-speed rail, magnetic levitation, or hyperloop technology. The all-electric system would be stand-alone, rather than sharing or relying on existing infrastructure. It would include some elevated tracks and tunnels, with no at-grade crossings with roads.
The study outlines benefits, potential areas for stations, costs and funding and governance issues. It found that ultra-high-speed ground transportation could:
- Create a new transportation spine in the region, transforming mobility for all residents.
- Draw new companies to the region and create an estimated $355 billion in economic growth.
- Be built within the 2017 estimate of $24 billion to $42 billion in up-front construction costs.
- Provide between 1.7 million to 3.1 million one-way annual trips at start-up, in what analysts called a conservative estimate.
- Generate between $160 million and $250 million in initial annual revenue.
- Improve the environment with a projected reduction of 6 million metric tons (tonnes) of carbon emissions in the first 40 years as travelers opt for the ultra-high-speed option rather than private vehicles or planes.
Support for this international project is strong.
“The prospect of uniting Washington, Oregon and British Columbia with an ultra-high-speed transportation system that propels us into the future is incredibly exciting,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Imagine fast, frequent and reliable travel with the potential for zero emissions and the opportunity to better compete in a global economy. It could transform the Pacific Northwest.”
“Improving connectivity in the Pacific Northwest region through ultra high-speed rail presents enormous potential for job and economic growth on both sides of the border,” said British Columbia Premier John Horgan. “This study confirms the numerous benefits for British Columbians and gives us a clearer vision of what can be achieved when we all work together.”
The exact route and type of ultra-high-speed transportation has not been determined and would require more analysis. All trips are expected to include a stop in greater Vancouver, British Columbia, the Seattle metro area and Portland, Oregon. Some trips also may include additional stops in other cities, including: Surrey, British Columbia, and Bellingham, Everett, Bellevue/Redmond, Tukwila, Tacoma, Olympia and Kelso/Longview in Washington.
“Bringing high-speed rail to the Pacific Northwest will deepen and accelerate the growth of our economies, all while contributing to our efforts to combat climate change,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. “I appreciate our partners’ leadership, commitment, and coordination in taking on a project of this scale.”
The business case study was overseen by the Washington State Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Province of British Columbia and Microsoft, which all shared in the costs. Both studies grew out of ongoing Cascadia Innovation Corridor planning efforts, a cross-border coalition bringing together business, academic and government leaders to build a global hub of innovation and commerce in the Pacific Northwest.
“High-speed rail will shrink travel times throughout the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, providing a strong transportation core for our region,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith. “These findings highlight the transformative impact of this service, and we’re encouraged to see cross-community support for the next phase of this international project.”
An advisory committee, representing public, private and nonprofit sectors from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, provided input during the year-long technical analysis. The study was completed by consultant WSP along with Steer Davies Gleave, EnviroIssues, Paladin Partners and Transportation Solutions.
Comments sought on federal contracting inclusion goals
- Written by Jackie Bayne, Office of Equal Opportunity, WSDOT
WSDOT to host meetings on DBE goal setting in Spokane, Seattle and Yakima, June 24-27
OLYMPIA – Contractors, trade and labor organizations, small and disadvantaged businesses and others who might be interested in working with the Washington State Department of Transportation are invited to comment on the agency’s proposed Disadvantaged Business Enterprise goal for contracts funded by the Federal Highway Administration.
Transportation projects that receive federal funds include a DBE goal that represents a percentage of the contract value in which minority- and women-owned businesses should participate, given their availability in the market place. WSDOT proposes continuing its current 19 percent overall DBE participation goal on Federal Highway Administration funded projects for federal fiscal years 2019 through 2021.
WSDOT will consider all written comments received and submit a final document to FHWA on Aug. 1. The goal will be effective through Sept. 30, 2021.
The purpose of the DBE program is to create a level playing field for firms owned and operated by disadvantaged individuals wanting to participate in federally assisted highway, transit and aviation programs.
Connecting with communities
WSDOT is hosting a series of informational meetings for those who would like to learn about WSDOT’s overall DBE goal:
2 – 4 p.m. Monday, June 24
WSDOT Eastern Region Headquarters
2714 N. Mayfair Street, Spokane
2 – 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 25
WSDOT Northwest Region Headquarters
15700 Dayton Ave. N, Shoreline
2 – 4 p.m. Thursday, June 27
WSDOT South Central Region Headquarters
2809 Rudkin Road, Union Gap
To provide comment
Written comments on the proposed overall DBE goals must be submitted by mail or email to:
Jackie Bayne, Policy Manager
Washington State Department of Transportation
Office of Equal Opportunity
P.O. Box 47314
Olympia, WA 98504-7314
WSDOT will consider all written comments received through Friday, July 19, 2019.
Documents detailing the methodology used for determining the FHWA DBE goal is available for review at all WSDOT region headquarters offices and at the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, Olympia. They are also available online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/equalopportunity/.
Anniversary party: Apple Line celebrates 10 years of service between Omak, Ellensburg
- Written by Jef Lucero, WSDOT communications
OMAK – The Apple Line – an intercity bus line connecting Omak and Ellensburg – is having a party for its 10th anniversary, and the public is invited. The big difference between this and other anniversary parties: the Apple Line will be the one giving away the presents.
Launched just over 10 years ago as the second route of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Travel Washington intercity bus system, the Apple Line has connected approximately 62,000 riders between Omak and Ellensburg since its first day of service. To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, WSDOT, Greyhound, Northwest Trailways and other community partners will host a reception and luncheon at 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 12, at the Civic League Park Bandshell in Omak.
The first 100 attendees will receive a coupon for a $10 one-way or round-trip fare, a savings of about $10 to $30 on a future Apple Line ride. Lunch will also be provided on a limited basis courtesy of Northwest Trailways, the transportation provider that operates the Apple Line, and other prizes and giveaways will be available to attendees.
“The Travel Washington program provides vital links between smaller, rural communities and urban parts of our state,” said WSDOT Public Transportation Division Director Brian Lagerberg. “I’m thrilled that the Apple Line helps connect people in the Omak area with the rest of our great state.”
“We’re honored to help support WSDOT’s commitment to connecting the citizens of Washington along the Apple Line over the past 10 years,” said Greyhound Regional Manager Ed van Heel. “The Apple Line is a shining example of a community investment in transportation, and we are excited to continue our support for years to come.”
Apple Line 10-year anniversary celebration
When: 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 12.
Where: Civic League Park Bandshell, 20 S. Ash St., Omak.
Schedule: 11 – 11:45 a.m. Presentations from local officials and agency executives.
Noon Luncheon (provided on a limited basis).
Logistics: This will be an outdoor event, rain or shine. Please plan ahead and dress for the elements.
WSDOT’s Travel Washington intercity bus system connects rural communities in Washington with regional transportation hubs and urban centers. These buses make scheduled connections with other transportation services to make traveling accessible, reliable and convenient. The program fills gaps in the statewide transit system by bringing connections to rural communities and other parts of the state.
New edition of Gray Notebook online
- Written by WSDOT Communications
The March 31, 2019, edition of WSDOT’s quarterly performance report (Gray Notebook 73) continues to follow the agency’s progress with its strategic plan by focusing on inclusion, practical solutions and workforce development. Gray Notebook 73:
- Demonstrates how the agency uses social media and its smartphone applications to engage communities throughout Washington
- Analyzes how WSDOT is using a data-driven approach in efforts to reduce the potential for bicyclist and pedestrian traffic crashes, and
- Illustrates how the agency works with partners to create career pathways through the Sustainability in Prisons Project and to remove barriers for individuals participating in WSDOT’s Wetlands Ecology and Monitoring Techniques Internship.
The edition is available online at https://wsdot.wa.gov/publications/fulltext/graynotebook/gray-notebook-Mar19.pdf and while performance measures are reported throughout the Gray Notebook, highlights from this issue include:
- About 22% of those who died in traffic collisions during 2018 in Washington were pedestrians and bicyclists
- The number of WSDOT’s Facebook page followers increased 24.6% from 79,343 in April 2018 to 98,878 in March 2019
- WSDOT responded to 17,010 incidents during the quarter, providing about $26.6 million in economic benefit
- WSF completed 38,348 (99.2%) of its 38,641 regularly scheduled trips in the third quarter of FY2019
- Amtrak Cascades revenue increased by 5.7%, from $29.6 million in 2017 to $31.3 million in 2018
- WSDOT added nine new wetland and stream mitigation sites on 17 acres in 2018, bringing the total to 300 sites on 1,623 acres
- WSDOT's Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks helped the trucking industry avoid 168,000 travel hours and $20.1 million in operating costs in 2018
- The annual average price of gasoline in Washington state rose by 10% from 2017 to 2018, going from $2.92 per gallon to $3.21 per gallon
- WSDOT completed one Connecting Washington project in the seventh quarter of the 2017-2019 biennium
The Gray Notebook and the Gray Notebook Lite (a summary of selected performance topics covered in this quarter’s publication), can be viewed and printed from the WSDOT accountability website (www.wsdot.wa.gov/accountability).